Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Logan Morrison and the four-man outfield

The Houston Astros have deployed a four-man outfield on occasion this young season. The first to get the treatment was Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers. Logan Morrison on Monday night was the most recent.

Both are left-handed power hitters of, let us say, limited batting averages. Gallo is about as close to a "three true outcomes" (strikeout, walk, home run) hitter as we may ever see. Last year he had 532 plate appearances; 312 of them resulted in one of those three outcomes.

Morrison isn't nearly as extreme (601 PA in 2017, with 268 walks, strikeouts and homers), but the idea is the same. 

In Morrison's case, the four-man outfield was trotted out when he got to two strikes (and no runner on second). The Astros had third baseman Alex Bregman playing back by the warning track in left field, and absolutely nobody on the left side of the infield. The three "real" outfielders were in center to right, and the remaining infielders were all on the first base side of second.

The "obvious" response is the bunt to the left side, but that's unlikely to be attempted with two strikes, especially by somebody as unaccustomed to the bunt as Morrison. 

The flip side of this aggressive defensive positioning is that it may be unnecessary. Morrison went to two strikes in 314 plate appearances; he slashed .148/.258/.311 in those trips. Get to two strikes on him -- the fewer balls the better -- and the real work of the at-bat is pretty much over. 

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