Ellsbury is a guy whose pull percentage might seem high on the surface (67.8 percent of his ground balls and short line drives, to be precise). But that's actually a lower-than-average rate. And that's not all he has going for him.
He has become a tougher and tougher out and a hitter you don't want to invite to slap the ball through any gaping holes. He, too, has been shifted on in only 1.3 percent of his plate appearances this year, according to Baseball Info Solutions.
"He's just a guy who naturally hits the ball where it's pitched," said an AL front-office man who is in on his team's shift discussions. "And he's done a lot better job of that of late. He's just a really coordinated guy with bat control, and he's trying to get on base. He does have power numbers in his past. But from the seventh inning on, especially, you don't want to leave a hole on the left side for him to shoot a ball through."
Who would want to mess with shifting on Mauer, a three-time batting champ with one of the lowest pull rates in baseball (just 30.7 percent of his ground balls and infield line drives, according to Trumedia)?
Oh, some teams have tried it -- but they must wonder why they did. Baseball Info Solutions' data shows that Mauer is hitting .600 this year (6-for-10) on ground balls and short line drives against the shifts he's seen. Yeah, .600.
"He's really hard to shift on," said the AL front-office man quoted above. "Not only does he naturally drive the ball on the ground all over the field, but if you did make an adjustment on how you played him, he has such good, controlled at-bats that if you left half the field open for him, it wouldn't be a fun day."