During his start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, Los Angeles Dodgers starter Rich Hill was noticeably unhappy in the first inning.
The reason he was so worked up was not because he gave up home runs, or even a run at all, but because Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi bunted down the third base line for a single with two outs and no one on base with the Dodgers infielders shifted to the right side.
After the game in which he tossed six innings of one-run ball, Hill explained why he is not a fan of his infield shifting when he is on the mound, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“In my opinion, I just never enjoy seeing an entire part of the field left open. I think hitters are getting better and understanding how to beat the shift. No matter if you’re a power hitter or wherever you want to categorize your hitters in the top part, middle part or the end of the lineup, guys are getting more savvy and understanding how to beat the shift. So we have to make adjustments to that and I think we will moving forward.”
Hill did go on to add that he understands the reasoning and analytic work that teams put in to come to a conclusion that they should put on a shift:
“To me it’s more pitcher-to-pitcher bases, it’s individually based. We put a lot of work into trying to put our guys in the best position to have an optimal outcome and it’s like one of those things ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’. I love it when it works and hate it when it doesn’t. But it is one of those things where you get a little hesitant when you see an entire part of the field left open. For me, I would prefer to not have that but understanding that the work that goes in is appreciated.”
As Hill alluded to, most pitchers are probably helped by infield shifts more often than they are hurt by them. But it is understandable that he feels uncomfortable when an entire side of the field is left open, and he is not the first pitcher to express his displeasure about it. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has made similar comments in the past.
It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers take his comments and preferences into account and start shifting less when he is on the mound moving forward.