Rangers see benefits of embracing shifts
BALTIMORE -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister said it took his team about a month plus Spring Training to get comfortable with shifting the defense around, but it seems to be paying off.
According to a chart created by ESPN Stats & Info, the Rangers rank third, behind the Orioles and Astros, in the Major Leagues with 12 runs saved via shift entering Wednesday.
When the Rangers began to implement the shift under first-year manager Banister, it took a while for everyone to get familiar with it. Position players had to get used to different looks in the field, pitchers had to get used to pitching to the shift and coaches needed to figure out how to implement the alignments.
The Rangers have used some drastic shifts throughout the season, but those decisions aren't made without talking to everyone involved.
"They have to be challenged to focus in on the pitcher, too, and they have to be able to see the swing," Banister said. "They have the best view in the house. But talking about what they are looking for, listen to them from what they see so when we start to position guys, they have a greater view of the backside of the pitcher and the shape of the pitch and swing."
Banister called the team's shifts an ever-growing process, and one of those aspects is also shifting his outfield.
"Outfield stuff, that's the one that really can be a real game-changer for us in a sense that it's kind of a landscape that nobody wants to tackle too much because when you make a mistake in the outfield it costs you runs," Banister said. "But when you are aggressive in how you position your outfielders and you are willing to stick with it, but also smart enough to know when you need to make the adjustments because you have to pay attention to the hitter."
All of the shifting, especially with the outfield, has to do with the opposing hitters and knowing their tendencies. Banister said he challenges his coaches to watch every swing and pay attention to each situation with great focus so the team can make adjustments on the fly.
"Typically when it's on the ground it's one base, and if it's in the outfield it's two bases and somebody is scoring," Banister said. "That's the one that shows up and hurts you the worst. That's why we have to be really good about paying attention about what goes on in the box."