Throughout spring training, the Houston Astros experimented with extreme defensive shifts. Not your typical, now-everyday overshifts -- but more exotic fare, like having four outfielders.
Manager A.J. Hinch didn't wait long before busting it out on Opening Day. The test subject? Texas Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo, who batted second in the bottom of the first.
For the inquisitive minds out there, Gallo hit right into the shift, lofting a ball to third baseman-turned-far-left fielder Alex Bregman. Here's what the defensive arrangement looked like, courtesy of ESPN:
And on Statcast:
.@astros positioning vs Gallo. Wow. pic.twitter.com/XCOy0VfKeL— Daren Willman (@darenw) March 29, 2018
Hinch and the Astros aren't the first team to use such extreme measures. Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays broke it out against the likes of Travis Hafner and David Ortiz more than a decade ago. As the collection of hitters mentioned here suggests, it's all about targeting those extreme fly-ball types who are slower and prone to pulling whatever balls they do put on the ground.
To wit, here's Gallo's 2017 spray chart, courtesy of Baseball Savant:
So kudos to Bregman, the Astros, and, in a sense, Gallo for helping potentially normalize the four-man outfield. Consider it a stone-cold lock that we'll be seeing more of it this year.