In the eighth inning of Monday night's game at Marlins Park, the Phillies' infield defense was positioned in a shift against Marlins' slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Three players -- Cody Asche, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley -- were stationed on the left side of the diamond against the right-handed hitting Stanton, with first baseman Kevin Frandsen left to cover the right side all by himself.
The shift in itself isn't so interesting. Teams do it often and against Stanton, who has hit 13 ground ball outs to the right side of the infield in 487 plate appearances this season, it makes sense. Figuring that Stanton hits the ball on the ground 44 percent of the time when he makes contact, why not play where he hits them?
The interesting part of this is twofold. Firstly, the Phillies actually played a shift. For the life of me, I can't recall very many times when the Phillies played such a severe defense. Maybe for David Ortiz or Mark McGwire, but nothing stands out.
Still, like every other team in the big leagues, the Phillies have spray charts on every player in the league. But for whatever reason -- pitchers' comfort, individual preferrence, personnel, etc. -- the Phillies aren't known as a team that goes to such extremes. Of course, there might not be a reason to. Stanton is a pull hitter and it makes sense to put the shift on him just as it's only logical to shift on Ryan Howard. After all, why play a shift if there is no reason to?
But with former infielder Ryne Sandberg as the manager and the one lining up the infield defense, maybe the Phillies will shift more. After all, the Pirates do it constantly ...
That's the second part. Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune dug into the Pirates' defensive philsophy and how the team has gone from last in the majors in defensive effeciency in 2010, to first in the category in 2013. Simply, the Pirates line up on defense where the batter hits the ball.
Tampa Bay, with manager Joe Maddon, has been out in front of so called, "unconventional" thinking on defensive positioning for years and because more teams have had success in being so progressive, other teams will be sure to follow. Shoot, maybe even the conservative Phillies are jumping onto the bandwagon?