Matt Olson is no stranger to the defensive shift. Both as a first baseman and when he's at the plate.
Olson has seen it all.
In the 2019 AL Wild Card Game, the Tampa Bay Rays played a four-man outfield against him with first basemen Yandy Diaz at the very edge of the infield dirt heading toward right field.
Olson has taken advantage of this before and laid down a bunt, beating the shift. It doesn’t appear he plans to change that any time soon, even for a guy who possesses that much power.
“If they’re completely open to leaving the bunt, I’m probably going to try to bunt here and there,” Olson told reporters on Saturday. “There’s times where you try to maybe pick and choose and shoot one the other way, but for the most part, I’m in there to drive the ball and the situations going to dictate whether I’m going to bunt or not.
“If I’m getting shifted, a lot of times I’m getting pounded inside pitches. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but for the most part, I stay pretty true with it. I want to hit the ball where it’s pitched so if I’m getting the ball away, I’m going to try and go with it and see if I can find the hole and other than that, look for something I could drive.”
On the defensive side, he’s not sure how it would be handled as far as the future outlook. Would the league ever ban it? Well, that remains to be seen. Either way, Olson has always had the same approach.
“I’ve kind of always been the same about it,” Olson added. “I think they can go a couple ways with it.”
Olson suggests maybe if they were to make changes to the shift, one of the possibilities would be having all of the infielders on the dirt with two guys on each side of the bag. That’s the standard infield situation.
“I’ve become accustomed to it now,” Olson said. “It’s just normal defense for me when I’m at the plate. It’s part of the game. Obviously, the defense’s adapted to get guys out, but it’ll be interesting to see if and what is done with the shift in years to come.”
A's manager Bob Melvin has said in the past he believes the shift, especially against Olson, just makes the fielders more honest.
Giants catcher Buster Posey recently said he wasn't a fan of the shift. And Olson's teammate Jed Lowrie suggested in a 2018 interview with The Athletic that a team could have three players on one side of the infield, but they can't have an infielder in the outfield.
How to execute this would prove difficult, but it doesn't appear Olson would struggle adjusting in any capacity.