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Despite good numbers, Yost is skeptical of shift

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

BALTIMORE -- Royals fans may have noticed that the team is over-shifting less than it did during the first few weeks of the season, preferring to keep players closer to their original positions rather than arranging them based on individual hitters.

Of course, the Royals still are shifting far more than they have in recent years under manager Ned Yost, who argued earlier this season that in previous years, the club's superior athleticism defensively didn't require over-shifting.

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BALTIMORE -- Royals fans may have noticed that the team is over-shifting less than it did during the first few weeks of the season, preferring to keep players closer to their original positions rather than arranging them based on individual hitters.

Of course, the Royals still are shifting far more than they have in recent years under manager Ned Yost, who argued earlier this season that in previous years, the club's superior athleticism defensively didn't require over-shifting.

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With different personnel this season, Yost came around to the idea of over-shifting more. But he has eased off the tactic lately, after watching several weak grounders and jam shots find open holes in his rearranged defense. One website, though, recently suggested that the Royals were among the league leaders in defensive runs saved when employing the over-shift.

Yost, however, was skeptical.

"It's hard to tell," Yost said. "The numbers are there. But the numbers can be deceiving, too.

"If you shift and a guy hits a ground ball right to third -- where you had the guy anyway -- they consider that successful. It's a little skewed in their favor.

"We're looking at it ... but for the guys that can fist it the other way, we're coming back around on it [and not shifting]. It's not a hard-and-fast [rule] for us now. We're constantly looking at it."

In the recent Tigers series at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals backed away from over-shifting against Leonys Martin and Dixon Machado.

"They kept pounding the ball the other way," Yost said. " ... Does it keep someone from hitting homers? Maybe. I'm just not sold on it yet."

Royals starting pitchers have been lukewarm to the over-shifts, as well.

"I try not to really notice," right-hander Jason Hammel said, shrugging his shoulders. "I just follow [the catcher's] fingers."

Yost knows his pitching staff is not all-in on the matter.

"We warn them, though," Yost said. "If a pitcher is deadly adamant against it, we won't do it. We have our meetings beforehand and if someone has an issue with it, we won't do it. But [they better not] say anything during the game -- you had your opportunity."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

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