Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Aggressive Tampa Bay Rays increase use of defensive shift

ST. PETERSBURG — The talk in spring training was about humility and gratitude. The marketing department tags its ads with Baseball is Beautiful. There's another mathematical catchphrase, '09 > '08, with an invented symbol.

But if you really want to put a slogan on this year's Rays, the best word might be aggressive.

"We talked about being aggressively offensively, being aggressive on the bases, and I think that we're being aggressive on defense," manager Joe Maddon said. "Look at the NFL, and even the NBA, and some aggressive defenses, and how that speaks to winning championships, too."

The aggressiveness can be seen in how they push their outfielders to play as shallow as they can to take away line drive and bloop hits, and encourage all fielders to take chances in making catches and throws.

But it's also in their scheming, as they have started to use significant defensive shifts against more hitters. It used to be that only a few left-handed sluggers, such as Boston's David Ortiz and Chicago's Jim Thome, got the special treatment, with 2B Akinori Iwamura going into short rightfield and SS Jason Bartlett crossing over to the first-base side of second.

But now the Rays are shifting against more left-handers (Baltimore's Aubrey Huff, for example) and also against some right-handers, such as Boston's Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis, though not as dramatically, with Iwamura up the middle and 1B Carlos Peña in the hole.

The premise, actually, is very simple.

"We're trying to not cover things that guys don't do," Maddon said, "and cover the things that they do, more."

For example, when Bay "beat" the shift in Boston by hitting a ground ball down the rightfield line, it was the first ball he'd hit that way, Maddon said, in three seasons.

The Rays are shifting more because, in the fourth season of this regime, they have more data compiled. Plus, they feel like it works.

"A lot of times in baseball, it's hard for some people to just break away from traditional situations and try something new," Maddon said. "For us it's just not that hard."

Aggressive Tampa Bay Rays increase use of defensive shift 04/18/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 19, 2009 7:35am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-Louisville


    1. One of the many hard-to-believe stats about FSU's underperforming defense: DE Brian Burns led all freshmen nationally with 9 ½ sacks last year; his first one this season came midway through the second quarter Saturday.

    TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 21: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs the ball into the endzone for a touchdown during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) 775042617
  2. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss


    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State's streak of 35 consecutive bowl appearances is in serious jeopardy after a last-second 31-28 home loss to Louisville on Saturday.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102
  3. Bucs-Bills: Tampa Bay's fatal habit of falling behind


    TAMPA — Okay, all you road scholars, why do the Bucs keep falling behind in games not played at Raymond James Stadium?

    Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) recovers a fumble during the first half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. Nicked-up Lightning vs. Penguins tonight



  5. What we've learned from the Bucs' and Bills' playoff droughts


    Is it possible for the Buccaneers and Bills to be any farther off the NFL's radar? You get the feeling schedule-makers didn't think twice about putting this one down for 1 p.m. Sunday — the let's-hope-no-one-notices time slot.

    [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]