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If you haven't read this article, please do. It's really, really good.
My initial thought was that shifts were giving more territorial responsibility to third basemen who, being typically less rangy and less skilled defensively than middle infielders, were proving less effective than anticipated in covering the larger area assigned to them. (When left-handers hit, often the third baseman shifts over into the shortstop's spot.)
Rollins shook his head, “Hmm, yeah, you’d expect the [ground ball] numbers to be down.” After taking a moment to consider how to explain what was going on, he asked, “What about line drives?” I didn’t have an answer because I hadn’t thought about what suddenly appeared obvious. “I’ve seen so many line drives right past the first baseman and that third or second baseman is sitting there in that hole, and you’re saying, ‘It’s not fair.’
Like Rollins, Barmes was surprised to learn of the ground ball statistics, but he immediately added, "More goes into it [shifting] than stopping ground balls from getting through. It's more about getting hitters to change their approach."
In effect, Rollins and Barmes are saying that shifting is less about increasing defensive efficiency and more about reducing threat levels.
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