Lee Judge investigates: Should left-handers bunt against an infield shift?

08/28/2014 5:40 PM

08/28/2014 5:43 PM

Should left-handed hitters bunt against a shift?

To answer this question, let’s start by going back to the fifth inning of Monday night’s Royals game against the New York Yankees.

Left-handed Raul Ibanez came to the plate, and three-fourths of the New York infielders stationed themselves between first and second base. The only guy left between second and third was shortstop Derek Jeter, and he was positioned right next to third. Once Ibanez got two strikes on him, Jeter shifted over to his regular shortstop position.

So what gives?

Jeter was positioned like a third baseman just in case Ibanez bunted for a hit. Once Ibanez was in a two-strike count, the Yankees didn’t think he’d bunt. So they moved Jeter back to his usual spot. But should left-handed hitters like Ibanez or Mike Moustakas bunt against defensive shifts that are wide open on the left side of the field?

One argument is that you don’t want a hitter coming out of his game; after all, in that Yankees game Moustakas hit a ball over the shift into the right-field seats, and that seemed to work pretty well. But when you’re doing something that’s worked 15 times a season, you’re playing pretty long odds.

Royals manager Ned Yost has said that if a hitter will bunt twice against a shift, he’ll quit shifting — Yost says he’s not in the business of giving up base hits.

If a hitter uses batting practice to work on bunting and hitting the ball the other way, it would seem like he could beat the shift and force the opposition to play him straight up. It might be worth foregoing a couple shots at a long ball to make the other team abandon those shifts.

For more baseball insight from Lee Judge, check out his daily blog posts at “Judging the Royals” — KansasCity.com/judgingtheroyals. Follow Lee on Twitter at Twitter.com/leejudge8.

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