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Defensive Adjustments

 
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Wed 3/5/14 9:14 am    Post subject: Defensive Adjustments Reply with quote

Here's a good article from MLB.com which provided some eye-opening stats on defensive shifts over the last several seasons.

From this linked analysis, here's a glimpse of what's yet to come:

Quote:
...it seems a safe bet that the number of shifts will be on the rise yet again in 2014.

A couple notable examples: Brad Ausmus and Matt Williams took over Tigers and Nationals teams that ranked 19th and 30th, respectively, in terms of the number of major infield shifts on batted balls last season, according to the Hardball Times' calculations. Each new skipper hired a coach who will essentially serve as a "defensive coordinator" (Matt Martin in Detroit; Mark Weidemaier in Washington) in the upcoming season, applying the advanced scouting work and the balls-in-play data to provide suggestions on proper positioning.


Defensive coordinator? Not a bad idea.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Tue 1/27/15 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Less than a year after I posted about the trend in MLB towards employing defensive shifts, next thing you know the new commissioner is "open" to the idea of eliminating them. (Although, you'll note, he didn't hint about it in his letter to fans that I posted separately.)

Here's an entertaining column from Sports on Earth addressing the topic. This is the kind of analysis that makes baseball such a great mind game.

To quote:

Quote:
It's fantastic. The baseball world should be embracing the shift for the ways in which it has enhanced the game and will continue to do so -- much like what the zone defense did for basketball in the 1940s.

...For some reason, the shift isn't being treated that way right now. It's too often dismissed as an odd quirk, rather than celebrated as a beacon of forward-thinking.

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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Mon 6/29/15 6:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From this article in the Union-Tribune, more about how employing the shift has affected Major League Baseball:

Quote:
“Over the past five seasons, defensive shifting has nearly doubled every season and is on pace to double again in 2015,” said Scott Spratt, a research and development analyst with Baseball Info Solutions, a Coplay, Pa., firm that provides data to MLB and minor league clubs. “More and more teams are buying in, and teams are shifting more and more for different types of players, such as right-handed hitters.

“Meanwhile, the increasing prevalence of the shift has not diminished its effectiveness. In 2014, batters hit 34 points lower on their balls to the infield with shifts than without, and so far this season, the difference is 39 points.”

Obviously, the implementation of baseball’s more stringent drug-testing system has caused a huge decrease in offense, especially in home runs. Throw in the defensive realignments, though, and hitters just aren’t hitting. Period.

Baseball’s overall batting average this season — presently .253 in the National League, .252 in the American — could wind up the lowest since the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973. Since the start of the 2010 season, there have been 34 no-hitters thrown, including five perfect games and 10 no-nos by a combination of pitchers. The rarity has become routine.

Run totals are dropping accordingly. In 2006, MLB clubs scored 23,599 times, a sum that was all the way down to 19,761 runs last year.

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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Sun 7/19/15 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From today's L.A. Times:

"Use of Defensive Shifts in Baseball is Spreading — Because it Works"


By Zach Helfand

It was the summer of 1946, and after being burned by three Ted Williams home runs in the first game of a doubleheader, Cleveland Indians Manager Lou Boudreau devised a plan.

When Williams came to the plate in Game 2, Boudreau stacked his infielders on the right side.

As Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully recalls, "I thought, 'Well, that's the first time I've ever heard of an infield overloaded against a hitter.'"

Curious, Scully investigated and, he says, discovered another reference to a shift years earlier. In 1920, Cy Williams had faced an infield loaded to one side.

Not satisfied, Scully dug some more and found an even earlier example. Long before either Williams faced a defensive shift, a manager named Ferguson had moved his second baseman to the shortstop side of the bag against a right-handed hitter.

"So if you're talking about shifts," Scully said, "it might go to 1877."

The strategy might not be new, but the frequency with which it is now deployed is off the charts.

The number of shifts has nearly doubled every year since 2011, from 2,357 to 13,298 last year, according to Baseball Info Solutions. And there has been another spike this season, to 10,262 by the All-Star break.

The decision on whether to use a shift is based on scouting information, statistical data and, in some cases, a manager or coach's intuition.

Decisions made by the Angels coaching staff based on analysis provided by the club's front office reportedly was the root of a rift between Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Jerry Dipoto, which led to Dipoto's recent resignation.

Dipoto had called a meeting with coaches and the discussion turned contentious when the coaches were asked to do a better job of disseminating the information scouts and analysts were supplying, Foxsports.com was first to report. In another meeting two days later, Dipoto told the players that they would be receiving that information directly from the front office — a change that was not entirely well-received by the players.

The Angels rank 18th among MLB's 30 teams in number of defensive shifts this season and are among the best in the big leagues in defensive efficiency, ranking fifth overall in converting balls hit in play into outs, according to Baseball Prospectus.

The Angels shift more often than even the Dodgers, whose baseball operation is led by Andrew Friedman, an acknowledged proponent of analytics. The Dodgers rank 26th among major league teams with 185 shifts through the first half. They shifted 208 times all last season.

"We felt like it really benefited us a lot from the prevention side," Friedman said.

Data indicates the shifts are working throughout baseball. The strategy saved 190 runs in the first half this season, according to estimates from Baseball Info Solutions.

That's bad news for Major League Baseball executives, who would like to infuse more offense into games. Early this year, first-year Commissioner Rob Manfred went so far as to say he would consider banning defensive shifts.

Among Angels and Dodgers hitters, Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez have faced the most shifts — and the strategy has not been particularly effective against them. Over his career, Pujols' batting average on ground balls and short line drives has increased by 28 points against shifts. Gonzalez's average has decreased, but not substantially.

Hall of Fame slugger Mike Schmidt recently penned an op-ed article for the Associated Press in which he argued that hitting coaches needed to start developing hitters who could drive balls to all parts of the field. And some observers wonder why the hitters don't just bunt or tap the ball away from the shift for a base hit.

But Pujols and Gonzalez share a similar approach: change nothing.

Pujols recalled that during a game in 2003 he succumbed to temptation and tried to bunt for a hit.

It didn't work — he was an easy out — and later his effort was berated by Moises Alou, a veteran then playing with the Chicago Cubs.

"Good hitters don't do that," Alou scolded. "Don't ever embarrass yourself like that anymore."

Now Pujols tries not to think about the shift. Besides, he said, he doesn't have the speed to just slap the ball and run.

But, he added with a mischievous grin, "You never say never."

Gonzalez said trying to hit singles away from a shift by slashing or punching at the ball changes a swing and is not effective. "If your mind is saying you're going to hit it that way," he said, "you know where you're going to hit it? In the left-field dugout or in the left-field stands" behind the dugout.

"You're going to be like, 'Why didn't I just try to hit the ball hard?'" Gonzalez added.

Gonzalez and Pujols agreed that hitters must accept that shifts will take away a hit on occasion.

For the Dodgers' defense, the process starts with personnel who analyze batters' tendencies. They look at spray charts and recent trends. Past matchups against Dodgers pitchers are invaluable. For Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the data is large enough to get a good sense of where a batter will hit the ball.

There can be pushback, Friedman said, but the team is careful not to control how a pitcher should throw.

"It's flowing out of our game plan of how we're pitching to the hitters," Friedman said.

Dodgers left-hander Brett Anderson said he often doesn't know how his defense will shift against certain batters. He doesn't want it to change the way he pitches.

Before each game, Tim Wallach, the Dodgers bench coach, posts charts in the dugout for the infielders to consult. The goal is to take away the largest swath possible.

Invariably, though, some hits find a way through.

When the Dodgers played Atlanta in May, they overloaded the right side against the left-handed-hitting Freddie Freeman, the Braves' best hitter. In his first at-bat, Freeman took a half swing and accidentally poked Anderson's pitch past third base for a hit.

The next time up, the Dodgers held firm with the shift and Freeman, buoyed by his earlier success, eyed the same gap and threw his hands in that direction. The ball squirted just foul.

Chastened, the Dodgers shaded more toward a traditional defensive set, and from the mound Anderson caught a smile spreading across Freeman's face. Anderson said Freeman was the first batter he's ever seen try to poke a ball through the opposite side of the infield in response to a shift.

After 138 years, it turns out, there's still room for surprise.

zach.helfand@latimes.com
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forloveofthegame



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PostPosted: Sat 5/14/16 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have either of you heard some talk about banning the shift? I think the idea is crazy. Also Nick Canepa wrote about it. Very strongly worded. Link to U-T column
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forloveofthegame



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PostPosted: Tue 5/1/18 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As you can see from 2 years ago I linked Nick Canepa's column then about the shift - and he has written another griping about the shift - linked here - thoughts?
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Wed 5/2/18 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
There are many who disagree with me, and that’s fine. If you think The Shift is making baseball better, well, then you never saw baseball before The Shift became as common as a strained oblique.


Sheesh. Well, yes, I do disagree, and I have seen baseball played long before the shift became common. Millions of us have. Why shouldn't you play the best defense you can against any given hitter? Why shouldn't a player have to work even harder to be a .300 hitter? Are you going to remove strikeouts from the game because they, too, decimate hitters?
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Wed 2/20/19 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's been a lot of talk this offseason, yet again, about the shift and how it affects the game. I really need to update this thread soon.
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