June 6, 2012
What We Really Know About the Shift
Last week, we examined the effects of fielding shifts on fielding metrics. For those who missed out, I’d advise you to go read it, but the short version is that location-based fielding metrics can overstate the importance of fielding shifts to a team’s defense and thus overrate players who are shifted in such an arrangement.
But if the fielding shifts are throwing defensive metrics off, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t contributing to team defense, right? And we are in what some people might term a shifting renaissance. John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions says:
Recently our focus has been on evaluating The Shift. And for the first time ever, we’re seeing major league teams immediately adopt a major strategy that is in line with the new analytics.
This is so cool.
In each of the last two years, there have been about 1,900 shifts in MLB. This year we’re on pace for twice that, about 3,800. …
I will say that the research is not yet 100% conclusive that The Shift is effective. In our book, The Fielding Bible—Volume III, we showed that about 50 points are knocked off the batting average on grounders and short liners for the most commonly shifted hitters in the last two years. It’s a good sample size, but it’s not a conclusive sample size. Baseball Info Solutions is continuing to track this and provide research updates to team clients.