Whenever we do get to see baseball again, this is something fun to think about, especially in how the Rockies might be able to benefit from an occasional four-man outfield shift.
This is nothing new. As ESPN’s David Schoenfield points out, teams have put four players in the outfield throughout history, including against gap-finders like Mark McGwire, Frank Robinson, Willie McCovey, and Harmon Killebrew. The Rays used it 48 times in 2019 and were continuing to try it out in spring training this year before COVID-19 shut everything down. This is what the Rays do right? Under Joe Maddon in 2010, they started instituting the shift on a regular basis. That caught on pretty well. They try new ideas and everyone criticizes how it’s ruining the game or, on the flip side, how much they want their own teams to try it. In 2018, the Rays experimented with “the opener,” using bullpen pitchers to start games when their starting rotation was depleted or ineffective.
Now, Schoenfield argues, the four-man outfield idea could catch on in a bigger way since it seems like it is the next step in the shift era. Schoenfield includes lots of stats showing the increasing number of at bats where teams have their shortstop, or second or third baseman move to the grass as an outfielder. This strategy was used once in 2017, 27 times in 2018, and jumped to 101 in 2019 (mostly due to 35 by the Reds and 48 by the Rays, but still). The Cubs and Astros have done it and the Pirates coaches said they were interested in trying it out in 2020 too.
Tampa Bay’s Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier explains it the best, as quoted by Schoenfield:
“It’s more with the guys with the ability to hit the ball in the air, just trying to take away the extra-base hits. We’re willing to give up a single on a certain side of the field. We do it with some athletic guys, but usually it’s more the big power-type guys — where it’s like if they hit a single, we’ll gladly be OK with that because now it’s going to take two more hits to score that guy.”
The Rockies should try this out. Sure, there could be side effects like little grounders that become singles and possibly more successful bunt hits. And yes, that could backfire if they next guy up smashes a homer. Conversely, it could also bless us with the opportunity to watch Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Ryan McMahon turn more beautiful double plays. On the other hand, Bud Black seems like more of a traditionalist who might resist big changes like this. However, there are two reasons the Rockies should give it try: their propensity to give up doubles and Coors Field.
In 2019, the Rockies were fourth in all of baseball in doubles surrendered at 325. The Rockies only trailed Seattle (336), Toronto (340), and Pittsburgh (351). Just for an interesting fact, the Astros gave up the least doubles at 233 and the Dodgers were second best at 239. Imagine Story or McMahon catching a line drive that would have been a two-bagger in the gap or just turning a would-be double into a single to prevent a runner from being in scoring position. This could have valuable payoffs when applying this to double-hitting machines like Chicago’s Nicholas Castellanos, L.A.’s Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies, San Francisco’s Kevin Pillar, or Arizona’s Ketel Marte.
Reason number two: Coors Field’s outfield is gigantic. Coors Field is 2.66 acres, which is 0.18 acre more than the average of other MLB ballparks. Fangraphs lists Coors Field as having the second biggest outfield for square footage at 97,300 square feet behind only Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium at 97,900. (If you want to see more math that goes so far beyond my knowledge that I don’t know how to describe it, check out that Fangraphs article.) We also know this by how it tends to chew up and spit up center fielders who try to play there for any considerable amount of time. See Charlie Blackmon moving to right.
But what if you have four players out there, spaced out to cut down those daunting dimensions? In the right situations, against the right hitters, this shift could be very advantageous for the Rockies.
However, I would also like to please ask teams not to use the four-man outfield shift against the Rockies as the Rockies were tied for second overall in hitting doubles in 2019 with 323. We have lots of talented two-baggers (Charlie Blackmon fourth in NL at 42, Story tied for fifth with 38, Daniel Murphy was tied for 16th at 35, and Nolan Arenado and Ian Desmond tied for 31st with 31 each).
Should the Rockies experiment with a four-man outfield shift in certain situations to limit extra base hits?
This poll is closed
Yes. Let’s do it. It will be fun and it could help cut down on runs.
No. That is baseball blasphemy.
Maybe. More data is needed to make that decision
It doesn’t matter because the coaches won’t try it out.
In an ongoing attempt to highlight good deeds and happy news, this one is brought to you by Bud Black and his wife, Nan, who used to be a children’s hospital intensive care unit nurse. Nan’s sister, Christina DiMari, is the founder and president of a company called River + Pearls, a non-profit organization that designed an art therapy coloring book for kids dealing with serious illnesses and experiencing long and frequent hospital stays. The organization is headquartered in Fort Collins, Colo., and, to date, the coloring book, titled “My Journey,” has been sent out to 151 hospitals all over the country. But demand is high.
The Blacks donated $10,000 to help make sure more coloring books will be donated to hospitals in Wyoming and Colorado. With COVI9-19 tightening restrictions on visitors children in hospitals can see and activities they can do, distributing therapeutic and engaging activities like this is more important than ever. Thomas Harding’s article is well worth a read to see examples of how this is helping kids who really need it.
The MLB.com staff picked Todd Helton. Not that Helton didn’t have a fantastic swing, and he was the winner of Purple Row’s Rockies Madness tournament, but many Rockies announcers and fans give the honor of the most beautiful swing to Carlos González. Big Papi even called it sexy. I’m just saying. Regardless, this is a cool article with video clips of each team’s selection.
We don’t like the Dodgers, but it is hard not to love Vin Scully. The legendary announcer is doing ok after falling at home. He is expected home soon, and in his great sense of humor, said, “I won’t be doing anymore headfirst sliding, I never liked it.”