Extra Bases

Making sense of the shift

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Here’s the thing about Bobby Valentine. He’s going to say and do a lot of things that will make you think he’s crazy. But then when you think about it a little, it makes sense.

Take the infield shift the Red Sox employed on Friday night. Kevin Youkilis moved from third base to where the second baseman would normally be.

Most teams just have all of their infielders shift over one spot, putting the third baseman at what amounts to shortstop then having the shortstop on the other side of second base. But with Youkilis having played first base, it makes much more sense to put him over there.


“In our case in particular, because if Youk’s on the dirt, it’s a very similar groundball that he caught at first base. He’s not around second base to turn a double play. My shortstop’s in a position that he covers the most ground on pop-ups,” Valentine said. “The DP combination is the DP combination that works together all year. Just for all the reasons. I don’t see any disadvantage to it.”

So why do teams do it differently?

“You kind of saw the body language of Youk yesterday. That’s why you don’t do it,” Valentine said. “You’ve got to run all the way over there and all the way back. So some managers will say, ‘Jeez, I guess he doesn’t like to do that.’ ”

Valentine also has a play where the infielders start in their normal spots and then charge in as the pitch is released. Plenty of opposing players and managers think it’s bush. But if employed at the right time, you can perhaps steal an out.

In a way, it’s like defensive linemen stunting in football, a last-second maneuver designed to confuse the offense.

If the Red Sox buy into what Valentine is selling, they will improve. He made the Rangers, Mets and Chiba Lotte Marines better teams with his methods.


If not, it’s going to be a long season.

So far, they’re buying.


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