Arizona Diamondbacks: Peralta and Lamb are raking against the shift
By Joseph Jacquez
Both right fielder David Peralta and third baseman Jake Lamb of the Arizona Diamondbacks have displayed a great approach against the shift.
For the most part, the shift has worked for major league baseball teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is the easiest way to position defenders against dead pull hitters.
As professionals, coaches expect their hitters to make adjustments. Some batters have refined their approach faster, but beating the shift has to test a player’s mental fortitude.
Think about it. When David Peralta and Jake Lamb are used to pulling the ball on the ground for hits, and all of the sudden a team takes that side of the field away, everything changes quickly with little time to change.
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The good news for the Arizona Diamondbacks, which at the same time is bad news for opponents, is both Peralta and Lamb made adjustments against pull shifts in 2016, and both have raked against the shift in 2017.
For the year, Peralta is hitting .303 and a lot of his hits have come to the opposite field. The “Freight Train” has appeared committed to hitting the ball to left field, and the results speak for themselves.
Of Peralta’s 119 at-bats so far this season, 40 of them (34 percent) have come with the shift on. In those 40 at-bats, the Diamondbacks right-fielder has 19 hits and six doubles. The Venezuelan native is hitting .475 with the shift on after hitting .319 against the shift last season.
Against the shift, Peralta has increased his line drive rate to 29.3 percent in 2017 from 22.2 percent in 2016. But, his batted ball splits tell the story. With the defense playing Peralta to pull in 2017, 44 percent of his batted balls have gone to the opposite field. Last season, only 23.6 percent of batted balls went the opposite way.
Lamb against the shift
Lamb is hitting .429 with 12 hits against no shift but still has a .320 average this season with the shift on with 14 singles and two doubles.
Lamb’s line drive and fly ball rate both have gone down with the shift on compared to 2016, but 38 percent of batted balls against the shift have gone the opposite way compared to 2016.
Peralta spoke with MLB.com about hitting against the shift in April against Brandon McCarthy of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I don’t think they were good pitches. The first at-bat it worked, but the second at-bat didn’t. It’s hard to not think about that huge gap they’re giving you."
If one or both of them continue to go the other way consistently, it will force teams to play the infield straight up, which opens the pull side again. Both Peralta and Lamb know they need to get on base regardless of what the defense is doing and both are executing the game plan to a tee.
Among National League batters, only Nick Markakis of the Atlanta Braves and Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds own a higher average against the shift this season than Peralta. Only Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals (18) has more hits than David Peralta (17) to the opposite field among junior circuit players.
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Even Lamb has had better at-bats against lefties, and some of the improvement likely has to do with a willingness to go the other way more often on pitches away.