ST. LOUIS -- A night after the Cardinals' defensive shifts were exposed in a game-changing fifth inning, manager Mike Matheny defended the continued use of defensive metrics to dictate alignments against particular batters.
"I'd say for the most part, I really like what we've been doing and we have data that supports it," Matheny said. "It gets overlooked when the play is made. But when a six-hopper jumps through, the world is coming to an end."
On Friday, two ground balls that normally would have been routine outs turned to singles because of an infield shift. That eventually led to a three-run Pittsburgh inning to tie the game.
Matheny -- while acknowledging that shifts hurt the team on Friday, as well as during a May series in Atlanta -- used Saturday's conversation to also point out times in which shifts worked. The club, he noted, benefited from the strategy in the team's previous two series.
"Guys are extremely excited when it works and extremely frustrated when it doesn't," Matheny said.
Dissecting the spray charts of opposing hitters is only part of the equation. Of near equal importance is the pitchers' willingness to buy into sometimes unique defensive positioning. The success of shifts is often in large part due to a pitcher's ability to locate pitches over a part of the a plate, where hitters are more likely to drive them particular directions.