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August 27, 2010

Ahead in the Count

The Clutch and The Shifted

by Matt Swartz

Picture this: David Ortiz steps to the plate in a tie game with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth inning. He gets into a deep count and lines a base hit over the right side of the infield to score the winning run. You’ve seen this time and again. 

Ortiz is probably the most famous “clutch hitter” in baseball today, which naturally gives rise to arguments about articles you’ve read at this very website, debunking the myth of said clutch hitting skill. Across the population of major-league hitters, the guys who were clutch hitters in 2009 were no more likely to be clutch hitters in 2010 than the guys who were chokers… at least for the most part.

Now picture this: David Ortiz is leading off the ninth inning. He rips the same line drive toward right field, but with no one on base, the shift is on. The second baseman is halfway into right field, the shortstop is on the right side of second base and playing shallow right-center field and the third baseman is playing where the shortstop normally plays. What happens to that batted ball? Frequently, it gets caught by the second baseman.

However, with runners on base, the second baseman is playing closer to second base and the ball gets through. For most hitters, the difference is small between the kind of defensive alignment that prevents hits and the kind that guards against double plays or holds runners on. However, for left-handed sluggers who routinely face “The Shift,” the defense is severely limited against them with runners on base. As a result, hitters like Ortiz are actually “clutch,” and not because they have the mental fortitude to come through in big situations, but simply because higher leverage situations occur when there are runners on base and that is when it is easier for them to shoot a base hit through the infield.

Ortiz actually hits fewer home runs with runners on base—only 4.2 percent versus 6.3 percent when bases are empty. However, his BABIP with runners on base is .319, compared to .280 with the bases empty. As a result, he gets a lot of RBI and the magic “clutch” tag from fans. Sure, he hits plenty of home runs and some of those are bound to be in clutch situations, but those are magnified in the context of getting so many clutch singles and doubles already, making the whole package seem clutch.

For right-handed sluggers, defenses are not really able to put three infielders on one side of the field. The first baseman has to stay close enough to first base that the second baseman also needs to play on the right side of infield to avoid a wide-open hole. Their hits are bound to be distributed more randomly.

Original Method

Two years ago, I ran a simple test to see whether this effect was significant—did lefty sluggers really increase their BABIP with runners on, and by a larger amount than righty sluggers? In that article, I simply took the top 20 in career slugging percentage among hitters with 3,000 plate appearances, eight of whom were left-handed and 12 of whom were right-handed. The gain in BABIP with runners on for the eight lefties was .022 points, compared to just .009 points for righties. That was statistically significant, and certainly evidence of the effect I suspected—lefty sluggers are structurally clutch. Of course, all eight lefties in that small group were not always shifted against. I certainly did not recall a shift against Todd Helton, but he was in the top 20 in career SLG, and was included in that study. The problem was that I did not have data on who had been shifted against most of the time, so I did not have a perfect way to test it.

New Method

However, I decided to do something more intricate this time. Since there was no way to watch every baseball game of the modern era (roughly 1993-2010, in which run scoring has been much higher), I decided to ask a collection of fans who had. I went to SBNation.com, the mother ship of hundreds of sports blogs, including well-trafficked ones about each of the 30 major-league teams. I posted a FanPost, easily visible to visitors of the sites, and asked them to tell me who on their teams had been regularly shifted against, and who their teams had shifted against regularly within their division. I provided the visitors with a list of all lefties and switch hitters who hit at least 20 home runs in a season at some point from 1993-2010.

The posters were fantastically helpful, more than I ever could have imagined. Within days, there were over 400 comments on the 30 FanPosts, giving me a solid list of 27 sluggers who were regularly shifted against. There were another dozen or so ambiguous players, but I generally erred on the side of including anybody who a poster said was shifted against most of the time, unless they were contradicted by another poster. It was a judgment call in a few cases, but regardless of the criteria I used, the results were clear.

Then I came up with a control group of 38 righties who were the regular sluggers of their era. The group was a great control group, since both groups had the exact same split of batted ball locations: 32 percent pulled, 51 percent up the middle, and 17 percent to the opposite field.

Results

The results were very clear. Left-handed sluggers had a statistically significantly higher BABIP with men on than with bases empty, as well as a smaller but also statistically significant increase in BABIP with runners in scoring position versus with the bases empty.

However, they were not more “clutch” in other ways. The groups of southpaws and northpaws had similar changes in home run and strikeout rates in different runner setups.

These two tables summarize the BABIP with bases empty, men on, and runners in scoring position for each of the sluggers in my sample.

LHB shift victims

BABIP diff (men on vs. empty)

BABIP diff (RISP vs. empty)

BABIP (empty)

BABIP (men on)

BABIP (RISP)

Adam Dunn

-.009

-.032

.300

.290

.268

Adrian Gonzalez

.007

.026

.306

.313

.332

Aubrey Huff

.019

-.002

.284

.303

.282

Barry Bonds

.041

.033

.267

.308

.300

Brian McCann

.042

.033

.282

.324

.303

Carlos Delgado

.000

.001

.303

.304

.304

Carlos Pena

.006

.006

.280

.286

.286

Cliff Floyd

.028

.017

.293

.321

.310

Daryle Ward

-.020

-.030

.295

.274

.265

David Ortiz

.040

.037

.279

.319

.316

Hank Blalock

.030

.029

.282

.312

.311

Harold Baines

.030

.013

.289

.319

.302

Jack Cust

.002

.014

.335

.337

.350

Jason Giambi

.050

.038

.274

.324

.312

Jim Thome

.010

.007

.316

.326

.324

Ken Griffey Jr.

.010

.004

.282

.293

.286

Lance Berkman*

.024

.013

.318

.342

.331

Luis Gonzalez

.024

.017

.280

.304

.297

Mark Teixeira*

-.012

.012

.299

.287

.311

Mike Jacobs

.038

.019

.269

.307

.288

Mo Vaughn

.031

.037

.323

.354

.361

Prince Fielder

-.002

-.013

.301

.299

.288

Rafael Palmeiro

.005

-.007

.280

.285

.273

Russell Branyan

.040

.012

.283

.323

.295

Ryan Howard

.013

.010

.323

.336

.333

Todd Hundley

.031

.017

.246

.277

.263

Travis Hafner

-.015

-.045

.322

.307

.277

*As LHB only, statistics only through 2009

RHB sluggers

BABIP diff (men on vs. empty)

BABIP diff (RISP vs. empty)

BABIP (empty)

BABIP (men on)

BABIP (RISP)

Albert Belle

-.011

-.015

.299

.288

.284

Albert Pujols

-.001

-.007

.316

.315

.309

Alex Rodriguez

.007

.004

.315

.323

.319

Alfonso Soriano

-.019

-.040

.313

294

.273

Andres Galarraga

.015

.021

.329

.344

.350

Andruw Jones

-.008

-.007

.278

.269

.270

Aramis Ramirez

.006

.005

.285

.291

.290

Carlos Lee

-.002

.004

.288

.286

.292

Cecil Fielder

-.004

.002

.280

.277

.282

Dan Uggla

.012

-.009

.293

.305

.284

Derrek Lee

.002

.004

.320

.322

.325

Frank Thomas

.013

.011

.298

.311

.309

Gary Sheffield

.021

.018

.275

.296

.293

Jason Bay

-.017

.004

.335

.318

.339

Jay Buhner

-.017

.004

.335

.318

.339

Jeff Bagwell

.017

.011

.308

.325

.319

Jeff Kent

.018

.020

.302

.320

.322

Jermaine Dye

.009

-.007

.291

.300

.285

Jose Canseco

.006

.011

.296

.302

.307

Juan Gonzalez

-.001

-.007

.305

.304

.298

Lance Berkman**

.027

.004

.272

.299

.276

Manny Ramirez

.017

.006

.330

.347

.336

Mark McGwire

.018

.034

.247

.265

.281

Mark Reynolds

.042

.036

.311

.352

.347

Mark Teixeira**

.015

.038

.334

.349

.372

Matt Holliday

-.010

-.031

.353

.343

.322

Matt Williams

-.015

-.014

.289

.274

.275

Miguel Cabrera

.011

.013

.342

.352

.355

Miguel Tejada

.005

-.002

.294

.299

.292

Mike Piazza

.004

-.005

.312

.316

.307

Paul Konerko

.012

.006

.277

.290

.283

Ryan Braun

-.026

-.019

.346

.319

.326

Sammy Sosa

.011

.004

.296

.307

.300

Scott Rolen

.000

.006

.308

.309

.314

Torii Hunter

-.014

-.004

.308

.294

.304

Troy Glaus

.023

.032

.270

.292

.301

Vinny Castilla

.010

.005

.279

.290

.284

Vladimir Guerrero

.018

.015

.309

.326

.324

**As RHB only, statistics only through 2009

Compiling all of the balls in play for each of the two groups and computing BABIP leads us to the following table, which tells the story I was looking for with crystal clarity:

Total

BABIP diff (men on vs. empty)

BABIP diff (RISP vs. empty)

BABIP (empty)

BABIP (men on)

BABIP (RISP)

LHB sluggers

.0198

.0115

.289

.309

.301

RHB sluggers

.0059

.0041

.300

.306

.305

Note that the relative increase in lefties’ BABIP with runners on base versus bases empty (as compared to righties’ BABIP increase) is statistically significant at the 99.9 percent level (t = 3.84; i.e. less than 1-in-1,000 chance that you would observe a difference between lefty and righty BABIP spikes with runners on base if they had an equal ability to increase BABIP with runners on base), and the lefties’ increase in BABIP with runners in scoring position as compared with the righties’ is statistically significant at the 95 percent level (t = 2.06).

These lefties were not more clutch in any other way. Looking at home runs and strikeouts, we see that the performance with runners on and with runners in scoring position changed similarly for both groups.

Statistic

LHB

RHB

HR/AB (bases empty)

6.0%

5.8%

HR/AB (men on)

5.6%

5.6%

HR/AB (RISP)

5.5%

5.4%

HR/AB diff (men on vs. empty)

-0.4%

-0.2%

HR/AB (RISP vs. empty)

-0.5%

-0.4%

SO/AB (empty)

21.1%

20.0%

SO/AB (men on)

21.0%

19.7%

SO/AB (RISP)

22.4%

20.8%

SO/AB (men on vs. empty)

-0.1%

-0.3%

SO/AB (RISP vs. empty)

+1.4%

+0.8%

Note that none of these differences are even close to statistically significant, with the highest t-stat coming in at 1.06 (meaning each of the differences had at least a 30 percent chance of being that far from equality of lefties and righties could have occurred by coincidence).

With help from Eric Seidman, I decided to also check whether this was true of all left-handers versus all right-handers, to see if this was simply a fact of handedness, rather than an implication of the shift, and I found that it was the shift.

Total

BABIP diff (men on vs. empty)

BABIP diff (RISP vs. empty)

BABIP (empty)

BABIP (men on)

BABIP (RISP)

LHB all

.0089

.0001

.298

.307

.298

RHB all

.0074

.0025

.293

.300

.295

 

Total

HR/AB diff (men on vs. empty)

HR/AB diff (RISP vs. empty)

HR/AB (empty)

HR/AB (men on)

HR/AB (RISP)

LHB all

-.0007

-.0014

.0306

.0299

.0292

RHB all

.0074

.0025

.0319

.0301

.0287

 

Total

SO/AB diff (men on vs. empty)

SO/AB diff (RISP vs. empty)

SO/AB (empty)

SO/AB (men on)

SO/AB (RISP)

LHB all

-.003

.010

.185

.181

.195

RHB all

-.003

.010

.193

.190

.203

This BABIP spike is not common to all left-handed hitters, but only to those powerful pull hitters against whom defenses regularly employ the shift.

The implication is clear: there is clutchness, in the sense that left-handed sluggers are able to get more of their hits in crucial situations than right-handed sluggers, even though on the whole, left-handed and right-handed hitters are similar in their ability to hit the ball well in clutch situations.

Next, we have to determine the degree to which this is valuable. 

Putting a Dollar Value on Clutchness

Suppose that a player gets 650 PA in a season, and that sluggers get walks about 10 percent of the time. Suppose they put the ball in play (non-HR) about 75 percent of the time like the sluggers in this sample. That means that sluggers put about 440 balls in play in one year.

If the numbers we see above are true: a 20-point increase in BABIP for lefties and a six-point increase in BABIP for righties, then we can look at how many more hits a hitter with the same BABIP would get with men on if he were left-handed and shifted against versus if he were right-handed. In my sample, about 47 percent of balls in play by lefties came with men on, and about 48 percent of balls in play by righties came with men on, so we can say that roughly about half of balls in play for both types of hitters came with men on. If we consider the 14-point difference in BABIP to be about 7 points extra with men on for a lefty and 7 points extra with bases empty for a righty, then that means about 1.54 more hits come with men on for lefties than for righties.

Colin Wyers ran some numbers for me to determine the run value of a non-home run hit with runners on versus one with the bases empty (0.81 vs. 0.34 runs), as well as the relative value of an out (-0.18 vs. -0.39). That means that if we keep the same overall number of hits and outs, but switch one hit that came with bases empty to occur with men on and switch an out with men on to occur with bases empty, the effect would be 0.68 runs extra scored for the slugger’s team. Doing so 1.54 times per season means the lefty sluggers produce about 1.05 more runs with the same batting line as a righty slugger.

That means that a left-handed shift victim is worth about $525,000 more than his right-handed slugging counterpart even if they have the same slash line (since MORP determined that a win is worth $5 million).

How Sabermetrics can Find Clutch Hitters

Outside of perhaps Defense Independent Pitching Statistics, the most contentious issue between traditional fans and sabermetrically inclined fans is the issue of clutch hitting. Sabermetrically inclined fans have seen countless studies looking at how poor the correlation is between “clutch” performance year to year. The primary reason is that the sample of clutch at-bats is usually too small to draw any conclusions.

However, when looking at large populations, we can drive up the sample size and find some interesting facts. In this case, we see that the relative increase in batting average on balls in play with men on for left-handed sluggers who have been victimized by the shift is more than three times the increase in batting average on balls in play with men on for right-handed sluggers. Southpaws do not have some sort of mental fortitude that helps them win games, but their hits come in more important situations. 

 So, next time you see Ortiz come up to bat with a couple of runners on base in a clutch situation against the Yankees, and your friend tells you that he always comes through in these at-bats, don’t argue. Remember that Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter cannot place themselves where the ball is most likely to go because of the runners on base, and so Ortiz actually does have a better shot at “hitting it where they ain’t.”  

Matt Swartz is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matt's other articles. You can contact Matt by clicking here

Related Content:  Second Base,  The Who,  David Ortiz,  Babip,  Left-handed Hitters,  Right

43 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

cloakedarbiter

This is great, Matt. I've always wondered whether men on base affected the BABIP of batters who are regularly shifted against, and you laid that out clearly after rigorous study.

I actually found the way you gathered information on which batters were shift candidates the most useful, as I've looked for this information before without finding it. If you don't mind, I'll have to borrow your list the next time I do my own study involving defensive shifts.

Aug 27, 2010 02:10 AM
rating: 0
 
blw777

This is the kind of article that makes me want to read BP.

The shift is so aggressive that it tempts hitters to punch the ball to the weak side of the shift. I'm certain that Brian McCann has done this this several times this year - one of them was a bunt up the 3B line. Looking out at the defense it can't possibly have failed to occur to many of these elite hitters that going the opposite way might be a useful tactic. Is there any way to determine if the shift is sometimes counterproductive for this reason? Surely if it's Andruw Jones at the plate we know he's going to pull every ball (I know he's RH, he's just the first guy I thought of that stubbornly pulls EVERYTHING) but many of these elite sluggers have repeatedly demonstrated an ability to go the other way, so...?

Aug 27, 2010 05:10 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

I think punching ground balls the other way does counteract the effectiveness, but I've read that it's very hard to put breaking balls on the ground the other way so maybe that limits the ability of hitters to do this. Also, forcing hitters to hit the ball the other way might lower their SLG even as it could raise their AVG. I think the overall effectiveness of the shift is somewhat unclear, though I do think this article would suggest it at least works a little. Jeremy Greenhouse has done some interesting work at BaseballAnalysts.com on this issue, might be worth checking out (though I didn't save the link...you can just click on his name on the sidebar and you can see all his articles).

Aug 27, 2010 16:12 PM
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

BTW studes linked to the Greenhouse work below I'm seeing now.

Aug 27, 2010 16:25 PM
 
brucegilsen
(999)

As I was reading the comments, on 8/30 at 815pm, McCann bunted against the shift with a man at first and 0 outs for a single.

Aug 30, 2010 17:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

Good article, thanks.

Aug 27, 2010 05:18 AM
rating: 1
 
fawcettb
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

All very interesting. Where the hell is Will Carroll's injury reports? How many days has it been?

Aug 27, 2010 05:37 AM
rating: -8
 
Matt Kory

Odd place to ask that question, but there's one up now.

Aug 27, 2010 13:59 PM
rating: 0
 
MHaywood1025

If you can lower the BABIP of lefties by employing the shift, wouldn't it make sense to always do so, even with men on base?

Aug 27, 2010 06:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

One has to hold the runners on and open up a bit more space for the LH hitter; otherwise, the runners would get huge leads and steal bases (and advance further on hits) with ease.

Aug 27, 2010 06:45 AM
 
MHaywood1025

Right, but it seems there are many situations where the runners can be held, even with the shift. A runner on first can still be held by the 1B. A runner on second could still be held by the SS.

I understand the logic of holding the runners, but it seems it would work more often than it's used.

Aug 27, 2010 06:58 AM
rating: 0
 
Peter Hood

There would, I think, be a huge opportunity for the runner on 2nd to steal 3rd since the 3B would be playing in the SS position.

Aug 27, 2010 07:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Sure, teams could do it anyway, but once you have your first baseman out of position, you need to think about moving the second baseman over the cover some ground, and the overall result is just less optimal-- it's not like the difference in BABIP is 100 points. It's 20 points-- just enough to see the suboptimality of defensive alignments with runners on when there are goals other than minimizing the chance of getting a hit.

Aug 27, 2010 16:14 PM
 
MHaywood1025

Got it, thanks.

Aug 28, 2010 09:47 AM
rating: 0
 
LouisArighi

Great work Matt, rigorous, but presented in a very easy to read way even for us non-statisticians. Glad to see that the Athletics Jack Cust has come through in the clutch, even if it is just structural.

Aug 27, 2010 06:49 AM
rating: 0
 
leites

Fantastic, thanks!

Aug 27, 2010 07:43 AM
rating: 1
 
jrmayne

This is tremendous. You should be nominated for a Hucky. (Or whatever the baseball scribbling award is, or should be.) Heck, I'm nominating you for a Hucky now. Consider yourself nominated.

--JRM, Official Hucky Nomination Committee Chair

"The Hucky: Since five minutes ago, the finest online baseball award."

Aug 27, 2010 08:01 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

LOL.

I'd like to thank to academy...

Aug 27, 2010 16:15 PM
 
hitmannls

I would expect that a LH pull hitter's BABIP would benefit from runner's on more than a generic right handed hitter due to the first baseman holding on a runner at first base. Is there any analysis on this and is that controled for above?

Aug 27, 2010 08:29 AM
rating: 0
 
studes
(280)

Yes, exactly. That has been documented several times in the past. I remember it from Tango's Book, as an example. It's a good reason to put left-handed batters in the #3 spot of the lineup.

Aug 27, 2010 14:15 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Yeah, that's why I looked at all lefties and all righties to check the BABIP difference. There was one but it was only 1.5 points difference.

Aug 27, 2010 16:16 PM
 
Jim Ferguson

Sooooo, any other 'older' fans here remember right-handed sluggers who used to get the shift pulled on them? I do. Nice article Matt, but your assertion that the shift is never put on against right-hand hitters is false. In fact, the shifts I witnessed against Johnny Bench, Dave Kingman, Greg Luzinski and other dead-pull RHB of olde tymes were executed more often WITH runners on base.

Aug 27, 2010 08:58 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Yeah, I've been told that a couple times today, though I really only was focused on the 1993-2010 era. I guess it's a matter of relative use. The righties above in the control group were similar to the lefties in the test group, except for alignment.

Aug 27, 2010 16:17 PM
 
Isaac Lin

I can't remember if other teams did it when Gary Carter played for the Expos, but the Expos did an extreme shift when Carter came to bat against them, with three infielders patrolling the left side of the diamond.

Aug 28, 2010 19:14 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member timoseppa
BP staff

Outstanding work.

Aug 27, 2010 09:08 AM
 
Richie

This makes me wonder if the 'Shift' should be applied against many more lefthanded hitters. Not just the ones who often send the ball over the fence.

Aug 27, 2010 09:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Rowen Bell

Really nice stuff, Matt.

Aug 27, 2010 11:25 AM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

Excellent work, Matt. Particularly enjoyed that you tied it back to MORP.

Aug 27, 2010 12:23 PM
rating: 0
 
studes
(280)

Matt, it seems to me that your results don't jibe with other studies I've seen that point to a significant increase in BABIP for lefthanded batters (relative to righties) with a runner on first. Perhaps it's not apples to apples?

Aug 27, 2010 14:20 PM
rating: 0
 
StatFreak101

Do you mind linking these other studies?

I would love to compare the two of them. Thanks!

Aug 27, 2010 14:34 PM
rating: 0
 
studes
(280)

This is the one I remembered off the top of my head: Page 323 of The Book by Tango et. al. With a runner on first and less than two out, left-handed batters have a wOBA that's 20 points higher; for righties, it's ten points higher.

That doesn't address BABIP specifically, though. I'll keep looking.

Logically, lefties should have a higher BABIP with a runner on first and no out, cause the first baseman will be playing close to first and all batters naturally pull groundballs.

Aug 27, 2010 15:26 PM
rating: 0
 
studes
(280)

By the way, John Walsh doesn't study this specific issue in the following article, but it's a nice overview of left-handed batters and why they seem to perform better than righties:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-advantage-of-batting-left-handed/

Aug 27, 2010 15:42 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

I'm not at home so I don't have my copy of The Book to look through with me, but did they control for hitter skill? Could that explain the difference? Because lefties are better hitters overall than righties (I think I read maybe on THT a few years ago that had to do with more righties being 2B, 3B, SS, and C, rather than 1B and OF), maybe they face more same-handed pitching with runners on when managers bring in relievers specifically to get them out. Maybe the league as a whole faces a smaller advantage. Eric sent me all the BABIP numbers above and they matched up with the league numbers on B-R, so it should be accurate. And we do see a 1.5-point jump in BABIP for lefties more than righties with men on. I'm not sure what that means for wOBA, but it's certainly some fraction of that 20. I'm curious what you find.

Actually, maybe righties hit better with men on 2nd and 3rd but not first because the 3B and SS can't play as far back? Maybe that makes the overall "runners on" numbers closer but the "first base" numbers much more advantageous to righties.

That would make sense in explaining why the shift causes a wider gap because even with runners on 2nd and/or 3rd and first base open, it would still severely limit the shift.

Aug 27, 2010 16:24 PM
 
studes
(280)

Good question about controlling for batter effectiveness. I'm not sure. But I also was thinking along the lines you suggested, that perhaps the 2/3 situation balances out the first base situation in some way. It would be interesting to dive into.

Good stuff, Matt.

Aug 27, 2010 16:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Okay, Eric's awesome league splits by situation spreadsheet he sent me actually can help see how true this is:

Bases empty:

LHB BABIP: .298
RHB BABIP: .293

Runners on 2nd & 3rd, with 1st base open:

LHB BABIP: .291
RHB BABIP: .302

Runner on 2nd, with 1st & 3rd both open:

LHB BABIP: .293
RHB BABIP: .292

Runner on 3rd, with 1st & 2nd both open:

LHB BABIP: .305
RHB BABIP: .302

Runner on 1st, with 2nd & 3rd both open:

LHB BABIP: .319
RHB BABIP: .306

Runners on 1st & 2nd, with 3rd base open:

LHB BABIP: .295
RHB BABIP: .291

Runners on 1st & 3rd, with 2nd base open:

LHB BABIP: .316
RHB BABIP: .305

Bases loaded:

LHB BABIP: .303
RHB BABIP: .293

So it's definitely somewhat true from looking at these, I think.

Worth noting above is that the BABIP with RISP vs. bases empty is only +.0115 for LHB and only +.0041 for RHB, compared to the men on vs. bases empty .0198 for LHB and .0059 for RHB, so maybe my 27 shiftees up there are doing better with men on 1st especially, somewhat better with other runners on, but not as much of a jump. That makes sense. I don't have their numbers by situation though.

Aug 27, 2010 16:49 PM
 
studes
(280)

Very cool, Matt. The other variable to consider is number of outs. It would be important with a runner on first.

Aug 27, 2010 17:39 PM
rating: 0
 
studes
(280)

It's sort of irrelevant now, but here is the study I was looking for:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/base-stealer-intangibles-part-1/

Aug 28, 2010 05:28 AM
rating: 0
 
Bellis

Excellent piece. Thanks very much. Do you, or any other readers of this comment, have a link to research on the efficacy of the shift in general? There is some information implicit in your analysis, but I'd love to see something that specifically discusses whether the shift "works".

Aug 27, 2010 15:37 PM
rating: 0
 
studes
(280)

http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2010/06/shift_morneau_s.php

http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2010/06/on_defensive_al.php

Actually, I'm not sure that these articles definitively answer the question. FWIW, Bill James and John Dewan have argued about this topic for many years.

Aug 27, 2010 15:50 PM
rating: 0
 
Eric M. Van

Great article, but David Ortiz did not earn the "clutch" appellation because of some perceptual psychological quirk. He won it because from the 2004 post-season to mid-August of 2006, the Red Sox won 14 consecutive games in which he had a chance for a walk-off hit, with Ortiz getting 11 walk-offs (7 of them HR) and being on base after a BB when they won the other three times. In these 20 potential walk-off PAs he hit .786 / .850 / 2.286 (11-14, 7 HR, 6 BB). All three times he was retired (twice in the ninth and once in the 10th) he won the game in a subsequent PA.

He came up eight times needing just a 1B to win the game. Rivera got him to pop up in the 9th inning of 2004 ALCS Game 4, but subsequently he went 1B, BB, 1B, BB, 1B, IBB, 1B.

He came up five times needing a 2B for a victory and went HR, HR, HR, HR, BB.

He came up seven times needing a HR to win, and went K, BB, BB, 1 out solo HR off of Scott Shields (9/6/05), 2-out 3-run HR off of Otsuka (6/11/06), GO, and 1-out 3-run HR off of Carmona (7/31/06).

I messed around with some numbers and estimated that the odds against having a hitter of Ortiz's caliber doing all this in a random simulation like Diamond Mind were a billion or a trillion to one. Hence my assertion on ESPN the next winter that if clutch hitting were a drug, Ortiz would have been the first person ever to be certified as effective by the FDA.

People make the mistake of thinking that "being clutch" (or its opposite) is a trait variable when it is actually a state variable. The 2004-2006 results are so extreme that they can only be explained by an overwhelming but ultimately fragile self-confidence. Once Papi failed a few times he stopped believing in the inevitably of his success ... but for a few years, he had that belief and it became as good as prophecy.

Aug 28, 2010 07:49 AM
rating: 2
 
Richie

Excellent data on Ortiz, thanks for it.

Still utterly speculative that it was self-confidence, tho'. Other 'clutch' performers have later talked about being motivated by extreme fear (Bill Russell being the one I remember for sure, tho' Whitey Ford too, I believe), Mariano Rivera's long exceptional playoff performance associated with extreme calm, others stoicism. Ascribing one emotion with any degree of certainty says far more about yourself than it does about the subject.

Aug 28, 2010 10:14 AM
rating: 3
 
Eric M. Van

Excellent point -- except that self-confidence isn't an emotion, it's an attitude or belief that is compatible with any emotion on the anxious to calm spectrum. I have no idea whether Papi was fueled by extra adrenaline or extra calm but I don't think any of these athletes can succeed disproportionately under pressure without extraordinary self-confidence. Nor do I think that a period of lack of success or a physical decline is going to change the *emotional* response to high-pressure situations -- just the belief in the inevitably of success.

And I think that great self-confidence increases success under pressure by essentially eliminating distracting thought processes. All the cognitive horsepower is dedicated to figuring out the strategy and tactics of the situation with complete clarity, and then the thinking brain can get completely out of the way so that "muscle memory" (procedural memory, technically speaking) can take over. When any doubt enters the equation, that distracts from the clarity of the conscious thought and impedes the purity of the unconscious skill execution.

(Yes, this is all absolute speculation, but it's informed by a ton of psych classes and the normal amount of personal experience, although I have to admit that the "sport" in which I once in a while achieved unusual success via supreme self-confidence was pinball.)

Finally, in Papi's case, the opposing pitcher's lack of confidence and corresponding diminished quality of execution was almost certainly a factor as well.

Aug 31, 2010 05:04 AM
rating: 0
 
JoshuaGB

Any chance that lefties subject to "the shift" also have a better chance of hitting HRs because they know the opposing team is pitching for them to pull the ball? Its like when your opponent in a fight has a knife; it may put you at a disadvantage, but at least you can predict where the attack is coming from (not that I get into a lot of knife fights).

Aug 30, 2010 15:19 PM
rating: 0
 
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