Once again, a New York Yankee made postseason history. This time, it was Johnny Damon in Game 4 of the World Series. After Damon reached on a single in the top of the ninth inning, switch-hitting Mark Teixeira came to bat from the left side against the righty Brad Lidge.
Logically, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel employed the "overshift," which is customarily used against a dead-pull left-handed hitter. The second baseman takes position deep in the hole between second and first. The shortstop plays on the right side of second base, and the third baseman plays at the shortstop position.
Well, Damon put quite a monkey wrench in this defensive alignment. On a 1-0 count, Damon took off for second base. After safely stealing the bag, Damon popped up from his slide to see no one was covering third. Alertly, Damon proceeded to swipe third, therefore successfully stealing two bags on one play.
This got me thinking: has the use of the "shift" become more of a problem then a solution now? For sure, this maneuver has been affected by Damon's heads-up play.
For instance, one way for a team to counteract the shift is to have a a good baserunner bat just ahead of a power lefty bat. After Damon's performance, teams might become more reluctant to employ the shift with a good base-stealer on first base.
However, there may be a defensive solution as well. If a team wishes to use the overshift and third base is now vacant, why not bring the left fielder in about 10-15 feet behind third?
The thought behind the overshift is the coaches are banking on the batter pulling the ball to right field. Therefore, the left fielder is rendered relatively useless. Use him to cover third, should a runner on first decide to try the Damon steal.
Whatever happens to the shift from here on out will have to be credited to Johnny Damon and his two-for-one steal in Game Four of the World Series.
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