Mattingly says rise of shifts is due to hitters
PHOENIX -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly spent the better part of another pregame session on Sunday discussing defensive shifts and why the media is making too much of them.
Mattingly pointed out that the Dodgers were using shifts last year, before the arrival of a new front office that openly embraces the metrics that generate them. Mattingly also said shifts were present even when he played, if not to the exaggerated lengths of today.
As a former batting champ, Mattingly said today's shifts are a reaction to the deterioration of the approach by hitters, leading as well to concerns by new Commissioner Rob Manfred that shifts are reducing offensive production.
Mattingly, however, argues that it's the fault of hitters not using the whole field. He ticked off the names of great hitters -- including Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn, George Brett and Rod Carew -- who made shifts pointless by spraying hits from line to line and gap to gap. Mattingly believes the change in hitting approach in the mid-1990s to the long ball is at the root of what's happening and he admits that's annoying.
"I think hitters went backwards, that's for sure," he said. "Talk to kids, there's a lot of stuff I don't believe in. I think it should be better."
Mattingly said his pitchers in general, and ace Clayton Kershaw in particular, are involved in the process of defensive alignment. Several Arizona hits off Kershaw in Saturday's loss defeated shifts, and his body language indicated he was annoyed at the result.
"We're not doing anything a lot different with Clayton," Mattingly said. "He says he wants this guy here or there, last year the same thing. Guys have a say. It's not like we're dictating. You're making a bigger deal out of it than it really is. We're just playing the percentages, almost the same as last year."