Last night in the National League Divisional Series we saw a wild play happen when the Mets took advantage of the Dodgers falling asleep. With the shift on, Zack Greinke walked Lucas Duda with Daniel Murphy on first base. Murphy trotted down to second base, but about four feet before he reached second base he began to sprint and tapped the bag before turning and booking it over to third as the Dodgers failed to rush someone to third base after the walk since they were shifting. Murphy would later score on a sac fly to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. That would eventually be the final score that won the game and the series for New York.
In the aftermath of the play and game, people began to wonder how that happens in such a big game. It wasn’t for a lack of understanding as replays later in the game confirmed that the Dodgers had told Zack Greinke he needed to cover the bag before the play had happened. He simply forgot. Blame has been passed around in articles last night and today, from Bill Plaschke blaming the front office for the play, Don Mattingly blaming shortstop Corey Seager (despite the fact that second baseman Howie Kendrick is on camera telling Zack Greinke to cover the bag earlier) and even the catcher for failing to get up the line to cove the bag.
In the middle of June writer Mark Simon looked at which teams had shifted the most to that point in the season. While things certainly could have changed in the second half of the year, it’s unlikely that much changed given that the manager and front offices didn’t change in the middle of the season. I ran into the chart earlier this morning while reading some reactions to the play and something really jumped out to me: The National League Central doesn’t shift often. At all.
I used the linked chart above and looked through each division and the rate of all MLB shifts that are employed by that division.
|Division||% MLB Shifts|
Only the National League East shifts less frequently than the National League Central. Of the top 10 shifting teams in all of baseball, only one team is from the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates. They shifted more than twice as often as the next two teams in the Central Division combined. The Tampa Bay Rays shifted more often than all of the National League East combined.
The American League shifts more often as a whole, probably due to the designated hitter, but there is probably a little more to it than just the DH. But, let’s get back into the National League Central discussion. The Pirates are leading the way, ranking 6th in baseball in how often they shift. The Reds rank second in the division, but 18th in all of baseball. The Cardinals are next and are 22nd in baseball. The Brewers are 24th in baseball and the Cubs find themselves in 27th.
Every team is using the shift, but the National League is behind and the Central, outside of the Pirates, is way behind most of baseball. Among the teams in the Central, the Pirates shifts represent 38% of all the shifts in the division. Let’s take a look at the entire Central.
|Team||% of Shifts|
It will be interesting to see if things change moving forward in the National League, and in the Central in particular.