Porter a firm believer in benefits of infield shifts
HOUSTON -- The Astros have been routinely employing defensive shifts on the infield this year, which involves moving a middle infielder to the opposite side of the base. Against left-handed hitters, second baseman Jose Altuve plays in shallow right field and the shortstop plays on the first base side of second base.
It's a product of the data compiled by the Astros' analytics department, but manager Bo Porter said the pitcher-batter match-ups play into defensive positioning more than anything else.
"In Washington [where Porter was the third-base coach], we employed the same system because I'm a firm believer you have to defend the portion of the field that the guy has the greatest probability of hitting the ball well," Porter said.
Porter believes the Astros have been more successful than not when using the shift on the infield this year. It hasn't always worked -- Josh Hamilton rolled a grounder to Altuve in shallow right field and wound up with a hit -- but he's a firm believer in the practice.
"I know when you look at the spray charts and the pitcher we have on the mound and percentages of pitches they throw to certain zones, you have a probability of where the ball is going to be hit well, and I keep stressing the well part," he said.
Porter has spoken at length with sluggers David Ortiz and Adam LaRoche, both of whom see frequent defensive shifts, about what goes through their minds at the plate. Do they think about going the other way to take advantage of the open spaces?
"If they did that, it's still advantage us," Porter said. "Because you're talking about a guy who has the ability to change the game with one swing and you're making him do something he doesn't want to do, and it's mission accomplished."