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Thursday, December 06, 2018

Banning defensive shifts would be lazy solution to non-existent problem for MLB

It’s that time of year again. That time when Major League Baseball says it’s prepared to make big changes to the way teams are allowed to play defense.

As always, the proposed changes center around defensive shifts, an analytics-based method that has influenced teams to change the positioning of its defenders in an effort to counter a batter’s tendencies. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reported Wednesday that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is receiving “strong backing” from the league’s competition committee to try limiting the use of these shifts during MLB games.

Perhaps this year they’re really serious about it. The report adds that rules aimed at limiting defensive shifts could be put in place before opening day. Or maybe it’s just blowing more smoke to pacify those purists who remain against the idea of a third baseman playing in short right field. For now, we’ll assume it’s the latter. But since the commissioner is openly talking about it, we at least have to assume it’s still a primary discussion in league circles.

To that we say, why are they still wasting their time?

Some blunt commentary on a recent subject of argument.

QLE Posted: December 06, 2018 at 08:04 AM | 62 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bad ideas, manfred is thinking about it, shifts

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   1. Master of the Horse Posted: December 06, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5794617)
I think baseball would be better having fewer rules
   2. Man o' Schwar Posted: December 06, 2018 at 12:44 PM (#5794634)
Will this be like catcher visits? You can shift, but only up to 6 times a game. After that, for each shift you have to pull a guy off the field.
   3. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 01:30 PM (#5794666)

I think having rules around shifting is kind of stupid, but I also think that any rule changes like this should be announced at least a year in advance of going into effect. Teams and GMs should know what the rules are going to be as they are signing players and assembling their rosters for next season.
   4. Master of the Horse Posted: December 06, 2018 at 01:33 PM (#5794669)
3--that's a really good point. Which players would get hit hardest not at bat but on defense by reducing shifts? Meaning are there players who stay playing because shifts cover up their flaws but with a lot less shifting now they get exposed? I don't know I am asking
   5. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 01:55 PM (#5794680)
They wouldn't need some stupid rule and overly lawyeristic definition of "shift" if these .310 OBP/15 HR grade-C power hitters would simply bunt / half-swing against it and take their free base(s). Within a couple of weeks, 90% of all shifts would disappear on their own.
   6. Master of the Horse Posted: December 06, 2018 at 02:03 PM (#5794686)
Has MLB ever sat down with umpires, some managers, some general managers, some players and some analysts from different teams and anyone else around the game and reviewed the current rulebook? Do they have rules that were needed in 1950 that are now irrelevant? I don't know. Just asking
   7. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 06, 2018 at 02:51 PM (#5794708)
How do you limit shifts?

Paint lines all over the field, that players have to remain on one side of? Which means, they'll line up right on the line and cross over it as the pitch is thrown.

Or, similar to the batter's box, they'll just cleat the line until it no longer exists.

What is the penalty for crossing the line? How soon can you cross the line? Do we need 6 man crews to officiate against the shift?

This is opening a whole can of worms on enforcement.
   8. JL72 Posted: December 06, 2018 at 02:55 PM (#5794713)
They wouldn't need some stupid rule and overly lawyeristic definition of "shift" if these .310 OBP/15 HR grade-C power hitters would simply bunt / half-swing against it and take their free base(s). Within a couple of weeks, 90% of all shifts would disappear on their own.


This. Defenses use the shift because they perceive an advantage from it. If true, offenses need to react accordingly.
   9. KronicFatigue Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:04 PM (#5794717)
They wouldn't need some stupid rule and overly lawyeristic definition of "shift" if these .310 OBP/15 HR grade-C power hitters would simply bunt / half-swing against it and take their free base(s). Within a couple of weeks, 90% of all shifts would disappear on their own.


This has been driving me crazy since I first started seeing shifts against Giambi. Maybe he was too old or too stubborn to learn a new skill, but the shift (should) be here to stay. Kids coming up need to learn how to bunt or slap a ball down the third base line.

There was a time in baseball when players needed to know how to bunt. That went away (for good reason, b/c sacrifices were proven to be non-optimal). But we've come full circle, and now they need to learn how to bunt again.

Also, post #1 is underrated. Sports are better with fewer rules. You want to be able to explain a sport to a non-fan as simply as possible, and every rule after that should be made out of necessity, with an eye towards maintaining that original goal.

Baseball is trying to hit a ball and then run around the bases while the defense tries to stop that. Balls, strikes, infield flies, etc etc all exist based on that original idea.

   10. manchestermets Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:13 PM (#5794721)
How do you limit shifts?


By position relative to second base, I guess - no extra lines on the field then. No idea what the penalties would be. An automatic ball if there are any more than two players on either side of second base in the infield maybe? Are the infield and outfield specifically defined in the rules anyway? I agree that they should leave well alone, and players should practice bunting more. Hopefully someone will break up a no-hitter bunting against the shift at some point.
   11. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:14 PM (#5794722)
Paint lines all over the field, that players have to remain on one side of? Which means, they'll line up right on the line and cross over it as the pitch is thrown.

Equip each player with a collar that shocks them if they go out of position before the play starts :)
   12. Master of the Horse Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:21 PM (#5794725)
9--On Twitter one of my baseball follows listed an interview with Ted Williams about the shifts he faced and his basic answer was if he hit the ball like he wanted the shift didn't matter. But that was Williams who was awesome. How does the shift impact the performance of a Travis Shaw who along with being a dead pull hitter is kind of slow so gets thrown out from short right field pretty regularly? No idea.
   13. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:30 PM (#5794730)
You want to be able to explain a sport to a non-fan as simply as possible


I oppose rules eliminating the shift, but this doesn't really strike me as a serious objection (nor does #7 - 2 infielders to the left of second base; 2 infields to the right; specify the moment when they have to be on the "correct" side; it's easier to explain and enforce than the balk rule). If anything, it's easier to explain the defensive positions in baseball in a world without shifting. In modern baseball, how do you explain that the "third baseman" is the guy who sometimes plays closest to third base but sometimes runs over and plays in shallow right field between first and second base?

On Twitter one of my baseball follows listed an interview with Ted Williams about the shifts he faced and his basic answer was if he hit the ball like he wanted the shift didn't matter. But that was Williams who was awesome. How does the shift impact the performance of a Travis Shaw who along with being a dead pull hitter is kind of slow so gets thrown out from short right field pretty regularly? No idea.
.

Isn't part of Williams's point that he's trying to hit line drives and/or long fly balls? If Travis Shaw "hit the ball like he wanted" if wouldn't matter where the infielders were playing because the ball would be over all of their heads. Very few guys in the modern MLB are actually trying to hit ground balls, so they're not trying to hit "through" the shift so much as they're trying to hit "over" it.
   14. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:30 PM (#5794731)
How do you limit shifts?


I'm imagining that scene from Major League 3 where they stake the SS and 2B to the ground with a rope.
   15. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:35 PM (#5794734)
How soon can you cross the line?


This is actually an interesting point. If they were to draw lines etc. then players would probably run to their position as the pitch is being thrown which brings up all sorts of issues.

It would be great to see MLB do a replay to review a shift violation and have one of those digital timers counting down in tenths of seconds to see if the fielder violated the shift... Yeah that would be awesome.

They wouldn't need some stupid rule and overly lawyeristic definition of "shift" if these .310 OBP/15 HR grade-C power hitters would simply bunt / half-swing against it and take their free base(s).


No that's not it. Bunting for a base hit is equivalent to a walk, it doesnt move runners up the base paths far enough to make it pay off. Unless you can bunt .550 or something which Ichiro could have probably done but then again it would probably be a wash as to which is better: swing away or bunt...

So stop kidding yourselves primate patrons sitting in your mom's basement. You're not smarter than executives being paid 6 figures and using high end PCs and loads of data to work these numbers out. You're just not.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:40 PM (#5794738)
So stop kidding yourselves primate patrons sitting in your mom's basement. You're not smarter than executives being paid 6 figures and using high end PCs and loads of data to work these numbers out. You're just not.

That kind of appeal to authority has no place here. Loads of highly paid executives with loads of data said that housing prices could never fall significantly across the whole U.S., and MBS were AAA investments.
   17. Man o' Schwar Posted: December 06, 2018 at 03:55 PM (#5794748)
Unless you can bunt .550 or something which Ichiro could have probably done but then again it would probably be a wash as to which is better: swing away or bunt..

I've seen Anthony Rizzo do it half a dozen times, and I don't think I've ever seen him fail. The thing is that you don't have to make a perfect bunt, or really even a good one. If you can guide the ball within 5 feet of the 3rd base line, you probably won't even draw a throw. Particularly leading off an inning, this should be in everyone's arsenal.

I find it hard to believe that major league hitters, given some time to practice and using less than a full swing, couldn't exercise enough bat control to guide the ball to a general part of the field more than 50% of the time. It's not that they can't do it, it's that they don't want to do it. Slap singles to the third baseman don't get you big FA contracts - HRs and RBIs do.

This should be a skill that every team is teaching their LHBs during spring training. Put a target down the 3rd base line, and just have guys try to put the ball on the target.

   18. Tony S Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:01 PM (#5794752)

Announcer: That was a great play by Bogarts... but wait a minute, a flag is down...

"We have an illegal formation... on the defense... replay the pitch."

Boy, this sounds so appealing.

Can we ban bringing in the infield in a key situation while we're at it?
   19. Man o' Schwar Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:02 PM (#5794754)
By position relative to second base, I guess - no extra lines on the field then. No idea what the penalties would be. An automatic ball if there are any more than two players on either side of second base in the infield maybe?

I wonder whether these new rules (if enforced) would also eliminate things like the 5-man infield. That's a shift.

It sounds like people have a problem with shifts that move fielders side to side, but not shifts that move fielders up and back. Could you recreate a shift by pulling your right fielder way in, to within 25-30 feet behind the second base position, and playing a 2-man outfield with the CF shifted more toward RF to make up the difference? Could you play your 3B back 75 feet from third base to help with coverage of the missing outfielder? You're not moving players side to side, but just up and back.

If you can pull your 3B in 45 feet for a bunt situation, can you be stopped from moving him 45 feet back from his normal position for another situation?

Whatever rule they come up with, teams will try to find ways around it. Then you'll need more rules on top of those, and eventually we'll end up with big chalk circles on the field that demarcate the extent to which a fielder can position himself before the pitch without being considered to be out of position.
   20. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:04 PM (#5794755)
"Lazy solution to non-existent problem" is Rob Manfred's middle name.
   21. Man o' Schwar Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:06 PM (#5794757)
"We have an illegal formation... on the defense... replay the pitch."

I assume for an illegal shift after the fact the batter would be awarded 1st base and all other runners would advance one base. Also, the illegally shifting defender would have to spend one PA in the penalty box, wearing headphones and listening to a Joe West country CD, while the aggrieved team would get the equivalent of a power play. Unless the defensive team chose to use their one "red card" to negate the penalty, but that would leave them without a replay challenge for the remainder of the game, unless the game went into extra innings, at which point the free runner on second could be exchanged for a second "red card" to avoid a future penalty.

And of course, players can’t leave first until they chug a beer. Any man scoring has to chug a beer. Players have to chug a beer at the top of all odd-numbered innings. And the fourth inning is the beer inning.
   22. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:09 PM (#5794759)
That kind of appeal to authority has no place here. Loads of highly paid executives with loads of data said that housing prices could never fall significantly across the whole U.S., and MBS were AAA investments.


this is silly. YOu really think that you guys have all found some flaw in shifting that 30 MlB teams are all missing?
   23. TomH Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:11 PM (#5794761)
should be the same penalty as illegal defense now, when someone lines up in foul territory.

(altho I think regulating this is STOOPID)
   24. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:12 PM (#5794762)
It's not that they can't do it, it's that they don't want to do it. Slap singles to the third baseman don't get you big FA contracts - HRs and RBIs do.
You're right that they don't want to, but they have to realize that teams aren't dumb enough to rely on superficial HR and RBI totals for contracts anymore. Ask Chris Carter. It's more that they think they're helping the team more because their role is to get XBHs and drive in runs rather than relying on their teammates stringing together hits.
   25. bbmck Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:14 PM (#5794764)
5.05 The defensive team’s objective is to prevent offensive players from becoming runners, and to prevent their advance around the bases.

It's actually in the rules of baseball that the defense is supposed to prevent runs as opposed to positioning on the basis of tradition.
   26. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:18 PM (#5794766)
It's more that they think they're helping the team more because their role is to get XBHs and drive in runs rather than relying on their teammates stringing together hits.


exactly.
   27. KronicFatigue Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:20 PM (#5794767)
In modern baseball, how do you explain that the "third baseman" is the guy who sometimes plays closest to third base but sometimes runs over and plays in shallow right field between first and second base?


I wouldn't have to. They are all defensive players. All the rules apply to them the same (except catcher/pitcher). They can tag a bag, tag a runner, or catch the ball before it touches the ground. They stand where they think they'll be most effective.

I find it hard to believe that major league hitters, given some time to practice and using less than a full swing, couldn't exercise enough bat control to guide the ball to a general part of the field more than 50% of the time. It's not that they can't do it, it's that they don't want to do it. Slap singles to the third baseman don't get you big FA contracts - HRs and RBIs do.


cosign. It's the same reason terrible free throw shooters don't at least TRY underhanded tosses. It's a non starter because it's not cool.
   28. Master of the Horse Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:37 PM (#5794776)
Are posters here arguing against shifting and that MLB 'should' impose some rule or rules? Yuck. Like I wrote earlier, fewer rules, not more. And I like the Crew describing their pitchers as 'out getters' versus starters or relievers. Maybe we move away from describing players by defensive position typically played and now a guy is 'slugger' or 'on base commando'.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:41 PM (#5794783)
Maybe we move away from describing players by defensive position typically played and now a guy is ...'on base commando'.
Eh, that's a little TMI if you ask me.
   30. Jay Seaver Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:54 PM (#5794786)
They wouldn't need some stupid rule and overly lawyeristic definition of "shift" if these .310 OBP/15 HR grade-C power hitters would simply bunt / half-swing against it and take their free base(s). Within a couple of weeks, 90% of all shifts would disappear on their own.


Is this necessarily true, though? It's certainly the obvious solution, but there's a part of me that can't help but think it's so obvious that the teams' analytics departments must be taking it into consideration, and the calculus says that even if bunting would give someone like David Ortiz a 90% chance of a single, that will be wiped out by a fielder's choice or double play after he reaches often enough that it's not worth having him change his approach to one that surrenders the chance of an extra-base hit.

I suppose you could design an experiment, simulating a thousand seasons with your big, shifted-on slugger programmed to either bunt or swing away (or some more nuanced, situation-dependent strategy), but it makes a certain amount of sense if you see the shift not just as an attempt to convert more balls to outs, but as a sort of attempt to get the slugger to do as little damage as possible. A 90% chance of a single with no other likely results may be better than 25% chance of single, 5% chance of double, 5% chance of home run.
   31. Random Transaction Generator Posted: December 06, 2018 at 04:58 PM (#5794791)
YOu really think that you guys have all found some flaw in shifting that 30 MlB teams are all missing?


Nobody has said that.

Are you suggesting that nobody bunts for a base hit against the shift because the GM/manager is telling them NOT to bunt for a base hit (due to their spreadsheets and CPUs)?

The suggestion is that the players themselves don't want to try to bunt for a base hit against the shift because

1) It's not cool
2) It's not a way to make more money
3) It's something they aren't good at.

I challenge you to find me a GM/manager with their magical spreadsheet/CPU that would argue AGAINST a player getting on base at a .400 clip against the shift (if they bunt) compared to a <.300 clip when they try to hit against the shift.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:03 PM (#5794795)
Nobody has said that.

Are you suggesting that nobody bunts for a base hit against the shift because the GM/manager is telling them NOT to bunt for a base hit (due to their spreadsheets and CPUs)?

The suggestion is that the players themselves don't want to try to bunt for a base hit against the shift because

1) It's not cool
2) It's not a way to make more money
3) It's something they aren't good at.

I challenge you to find me a GM/manager with their magical spreadsheet/CPU that would argue AGAINST a player getting on base at a .400 clip against the shift (if they bunt) compared to a <.300 clip when they try to hit against the shift.


Exactly.
   33. Hysterical & Useless Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:07 PM (#5794797)
the same reason terrible free throw shooters don't at least TRY underhanded tosses


Wilt Chamberlain did that.

He was terrible at it.
   34. Jay Seaver Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:14 PM (#5794799)
Can't both things be true, or true enough to make sense? If the players are reluctant because they figure they're just as likely to wind up down 0-2 after bunting a couple into foul territory as get on base (and also figure that the time they'd have to put in to become good at it is time taken away from something else), and the analytics guys have reason to believe that it's not a huge gain when game situation and subsequent plays are taken into account, it may be close enough to a wash that it's not worth trying to change someone's approach.
   35. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:19 PM (#5794800)

Are you suggesting that nobody bunts for a base hit against the shift because the GM/manager is telling them NOT to bunt for a base hit (due to their spreadsheets and CPUs)?


yes that's exactly it. The math does not support it. (well not 100% obviously if you feel you can surprise them with a bunt it maybe worth it but see discussion below)

We had this discussion six months ago, everyone started by assuming that a bunt base hit was worth the same as Single in terms of weighted runs (o.45) but its not. Its more like a walk and worth somewhere around 0.3 runs.

The only real issue for me is: are runners able to advance from 2b to 3b when someone bunts vs extreme shift? And what about a runner on third? are teams extreme shifting with a runner on third? These sorts of considerations might help us to further tweak the numbers on this issue.

But for the time being, its not an issue of its' not cool, or it doesnt get a huge salary. If teams could win by doing it they would.

the last time I did the math, it seems you would have to bunt about .55 for this to be even worth swinging away. Ichiro could probably do that based on what i recall from his bunting stats, but even then it would be break even for him. Bunting .500 vs the shift does not cut it...Ill try to find my notes.
   36. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:22 PM (#5794806)
I challenge you to find me a GM/manager with their magical spreadsheet/CPU that would argue AGAINST a player getting on base at a .400 clip against the shift


.400 X .3 runs = 0.12 runs per AB w/ a bunt.

Contrast that to simply swinging away.

There's a reason even AVERAGE hitters are swinging away and not bunting. they've done the math. YOu havent.
   37. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:29 PM (#5794811)
The only real issue for me is: are runners able to advance from 2b to 3b when someone bunts vs extreme shift?


One reason why bunting against a shift is closer in value to a walk than to an outfield single is because teams don't shift as often or as extremely with runners on base. In this particular example, you have to play a fielder close enough to 3B to prevent the runner on 2B from becoming a runner on 3B by simply walking into third base on the first pitch of the plate appearance.
   38. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:31 PM (#5794812)
Also, in terms of bunting against the shift, some teams are clearly factoring that into their shifting strategy. The Cubs, for example, would frequently shift much more aggressively once a batter had two strikes against him.
   39. Man o' Schwar Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:35 PM (#5794813)
We had this discussion six months ago, everyone started by assuming that a bunt base hit was worth the same as Single in terms of weighted runs (o.45) but its not. Its more like a walk and worth somewhere around 0.3 runs.

To me, the best use for a bunt against the shift is leading off an inning, where a walk is as good as a single (and a bunt single is as good as a single into the shift).
   40. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 05:53 PM (#5794819)

There was a study a few months ago showing that shifting doesn't really work because pitchers for whatever reason walk more batters when the shift is on. It still makes sense to shift against the more extreme hitters, but the less extreme guys it isn't beneficial.

If teams haven't figured that out yet, I see no reason to assume they've actually done the math around whether it makes sense to bunt or swing away against the shift, even if swinging away is indeed the optimal strategy.
   41. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 06:31 PM (#5794830)
One reason why bunting against a shift is closer in value to a walk than to an outfield single is because teams don't shift as often or as extremely with runners on base.



do you have any numbers or references on this, Kiko? I'd be real interested.
   42. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 06:43 PM (#5794834)
Heres some numbers I came up with a few months ago after the last discussion. i havent posted them before and they can certainly stand to be double checked but here goes.

I assumed a bunt base hit was worth 0.32 Runs (all of these numbers are in terms of weighted runs), I guess I figure there was a chance the guy on second might go to third in situation where there's a man on second.

If you bat .450 by bunting, you'd multiply 0.45 x .32runs for .144 runs/success VS .55 x -.27 runs (the deficit on an out) for -.1485 runs per AB.

Something like -2.7 WAR over 600 AB.

If you can bunt .500 its comes out to 1.35 WAR per 600 AB. So still not nearly enuf to justify bunting unless you're a pitcher or I guess Mario Mendoza.

I figure an avg pretty good hitter (based on league avg. i presume, Im going from notes here) creates about 3.5 WAR per 600 AB.

So you probably need to bat like .530 or something for this to begin to break even.

From memory, Ichiro was about the only player we could fathom bunting over .500. We had some numbers and some assumptions but that's all I recall.

So if you're Ichiro you might be able to bunt vs the shift but it might still only break even.
   43. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 06:47 PM (#5794835)
My gut feeling is that there are still probably some managers out there who actually can bunt against the shift and make it work. But because the league is uniformly not doing this strategy, it must be coming from front office types who are crunching the numbers.

Just my hunch, but it makes sense.
   44. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: December 06, 2018 at 07:21 PM (#5794845)
The only real issue for me is: are runners able to advance from 2b to 3b when someone bunts vs extreme shift?


Teams don't do extreme shifts with a good baserunner on 2B anyway. Mookie took 3rd a couple of times when teams were sort of shifting and he simply beat the 3B to the bag on an easy steal situation.
   45. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 06, 2018 at 07:37 PM (#5794857)
This has been driving me crazy since I first started seeing shifts against Giambi. Maybe he was too old or too stubborn to learn a new skill, but the shift (should) be here to stay.

I saw Giambi bunt against the shift once, bunting it hard about 6 feet inside the 3rd base line. It seemed like he thought he'd have a double if he got it far enough past the infield, but he's slow and settled for a single. He looked like he could have done it easily whenever he wanted, but I never saw (or read about) him trying it again. Despite the stats noted above, I think with a bit of practice some players might have a .500 OBP, or more, bunting against the shift, and there'd also be some favorable ripple effects - making the pitcher pitch from the stretch, higher stress innings, and turning over the line-up. The goal isn't really to hit .500 against the shift all season, just to make the defense stop shifting as effectively. On that note, I would think the response to effective anti-shift bunting would be to leave the 3rd baseman near the bag, but continue to put the other 3 infielders on the right side. So the bunter would also have to be able to slap hit through the SS hole to actually reduce the effectiveness of shifting against his pull side by bringing 2 infielders back to the left side. I don't see why MLB wants to interfere with teams strategizing in this area. Let it play out, the cure is worse than the disease.

EDIT: Posted before seeing #42, and those numbers do give me some pause, but I would think anti-shift bunting would still be a plus in some situations. Or should we be criticizing any player who successfully bunts for a base hit?
   46. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 07:44 PM (#5794859)

Teams don't do extreme shifts with a good baserunner on 2B anyway.


Ok that's what I wanted to know to try to figure if these bunts were going to advance the runner from second base. As long as they dont shift in those case, then they wont give up the extra base to the lead runner. So a successful bunt vs the shift is worth something akin to a walk in terms of weighted runs.
   47. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 07:51 PM (#5794860)
and there'd also be some favorable ripple effects - making the pitcher pitch from the stretch, higher stress innings..


its going to be LEsS stress cause the pitcher knows you're using a sub optimal strategy for all but the worst hitters.


its possible players might be able to bunt .500 no ones been able to do it. it maybe easier to bunt against a shifted infield, but I am not sure. Does the 1b and 3b still play tight on the corners? And then there's the problem that if they know you're bunting they maybe able to field it better.

In the end though, if you can bunt .500 you're still no better than some of the weaker hitters. it makes little sense for an average decent hitter.
   48. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 07:57 PM (#5794862)
Posted before seeing #42, and those numbers do give me some pause, but I would think anti-shift bunting would still be a plus in some situations.


well like what situations are you thinking? I was thinking with men on 2b or on 3b but they are telling me most teams arent shifting in these cases. So you're saying as a surprise weapon? or with no one on? sure, maybe.
   49. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 06, 2018 at 08:10 PM (#5794865)
well like what situations are you thinking? I was thinking with men on 2b or on 3b but they are telling me most teams arent shifting in these cases. So you're saying as a surprise weapon? or with no one on? sure, maybe.

Leading off an inning, or when you need to get on base to have a better hitter bat, or can advance a runner into scoring position, and when you have a high probability of stealing a base come to mind. Or where the pitcher seems rattled with men on base, if that actually exists.
   50. Cleveland (need new name) fan Posted: December 06, 2018 at 09:04 PM (#5794875)
In the end though, if you can bunt .500 you're still no better than some of the weaker hitters. it makes little sense for an average decent hitter.


Your calculations in 42 are based on some bad assumptions. You are ignoring context when you assign value to a bunt against the shift as opposed to a single. A single doesn't have the same value in all situations. A single with a runner on 3B has a much higher value than a single with the based empty. As you and YC are discussing in later messages, team rarely shift in situations where a single has its highest value (e.g. runners on 2B an/or 3B). If the bases are empty then a bunt has exactly the same value as a single or a walk. So you need to redo your calculations in 42 to properly account for the fact that a single in situations when a shift is employed is not worth (per 35) 0.45 runs. This implies that the difference between the value of a single and a bunt is closer in shifting situations and hence you need to be successful of a lower percentage to gain a benefit.

The second questionable assumption is that you state the Ichiro is the only person that could successfully bunt over .500. How do you come to this conclusion? Our historic view of bunting is based on situations where the defense is set-up to stop a bunt and the batter successfully bunts anyway. We have no historical evidence of how successful people could be bunting against a shift, but trying to extrapolate from bunting against a defense to bunting against a shift is very problematical.
   51. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: December 06, 2018 at 09:35 PM (#5794877)
Wilt Chamberlain did that.

He was terrible at it.


Chamberlain set a career best shooting freethrows that way.
   52. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2018 at 10:28 PM (#5794881)
The second questionable assumption is that you state the Ichiro is the only person that could successfully bunt over .500. How do you come to this conclusion?


going from memory we had a discussion about his success rate. Some of that data should be easy enough to google. I am just going from what I remember, he seemed to be flirting with .500 but maybe he wasnt quite there. no one else seemed as adept at bunting as i recall.
   53. bookbook Posted: December 06, 2018 at 11:03 PM (#5794883)
3.5 WAR per 600 PAs feels high for an "average pretty good hitter" to me. I'd guess very few players should always bunt against the shift, but that many players should be able to bunt against the shift 25-50 times a year. First, it's embarassing for the defensive team. Second, a legitimate threat of bunting would be likely to increase the difficulty for the pitcher, who is already more prone to walking the batter because he's pitching differently due to the shift being on. Third, even a suboptimal level of successful bunting would decrease the usage of shifts against the batter. (Or just get better at hitting to the opposite field. Then you beat the shift.without giving up so much power.)
   54. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2018 at 08:32 AM (#5794914)

3.5 WAR per 600 PAs feels high for an "average pretty good hitter" to me.
.

yeah that doesnt feel right to me either; Im going from some garbled notes. its probably more on the order of 2.0.
   55. JL72 Posted: December 07, 2018 at 08:46 AM (#5794919)
Ichiro could probably do that based on what i recall from his bunting stats, but even then it would be break even for him.


I don't see why you would use his (or any other players) regular bunting stats to determine whether he should bunt against the shift. The defensive alignment with a 3B vs. the 3B essentially at SS are too different.

I figure an avg pretty good hitter (based on league avg. i presume, Im going from notes here) creates about 3.5 WAR per 600 AB.


Against the shift or against a regular defense?

Edit - I see you downgraded to 2.0 WAR. My question is still is that against the shift?
   56. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2018 at 08:55 AM (#5794921)
If the bases are empty then a bunt has exactly the same value as a single or a walk. So you need to redo your calculations in 42 to properly account for the fact that a single in situations when a shift is employed is not worth (per 35) 0.45 runs


Ok that's true, the Single = bunt. Bunt the value of the bunt is also diminished because its not moving anyone (namely a runner on first) up.

Well so what, they're both equal? Yeah, but our normal batter is still hitting doubles and HRs; which of course are diminished in value as well with no one on. OK this is very rough I'm going to value walks and singles as 0.25, this without pencil paper so very rough:

bunting .450 w/ no one on -3.4 runs/600 AB
bunting .500 w/ no one on 0.75 runs/600 AB

batting .260 slug 420; 8% walk rate: -3.1 runs/600 AB

OK so you still arent breaking even at .450, you need to bat say .460 or so w/ no one on.

Well that's not so bad. But here's another thing w/ no one on, the first baseman is definitely going to be playing to cut off the bunt and maybe the third basemen if he knows your bunting.

Can you bunt .460 w/ no one on? I dunno but it seems most players and teams dont think you can.

OK
   57. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2018 at 08:57 AM (#5794922)

I don't see why you would use his (or any other players) regular bunting stats to determine whether he should bunt against the shift.


I was trying to find a proxy for what the maximum successful bunt rate would be. Ichiro seems to be about the best bunter as I recall, and yes with a third baseman far away it would change things.

Do you want to take stab at that one? can you look up some bunting rates while we're doing this other stuff? what sort of estimates do you think?
   58. JL72 Posted: December 07, 2018 at 09:35 AM (#5794933)
Do you want to take stab at that one? can you look up some bunting rates while we're doing this other stuff? what sort of estimates do you think?


Sure. A couple of things I found

An article by Joe Posnanski in April 2018 said the following:

Last year, based on Statcast™ numbers, players who got a bunt down against the shift hit .568. This is more complicated than simple batting average numbers because, among other things, it doesn't include those who fail to get the bunt down, but the point is: Major League players can beat the shift time after time after time if they so choose.


But I think this misses the selectivity aspect – the players who bunt are likely those who are already pretty good at it. That does not mean every ball player can become good at it.

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs took a look at this in 2014 and had some interesting numbers:

Truth about bunting

A couple of things he came up with. Form 2008-2013, here is the breakdown of all bunt attempts:

• Overall: 49.7% fair bunts
• Pitchers: 49.9% (out of about 10k attempts)
• Non-Pitchers: 49.6% (out of about 26k attempts)

Looking on an individual level he found that frequent bunters (bunt attempts on 2.5% of more of pitches) bunted the ball fair 49.5% of the time, while infrequent bunters (bunt attempts on less than 0.5% of pitches) bunted the ball fair 46.1% of the time.

Sullivan also looked at bunting against the shift:

Bunting and beating the shift

Looking at 2012 and 2013, he found the following:

I came up with just over 200 attempts over two years. Of those attempts, 38% were bunted fair, and 25% of the bunts resulted in the batter reaching base, either on a hit or an error. In other words, one of four attempted bunts put the batter on, but two of three bunts in play worked out, which isn’t a shock.


He also looked at a couple of individuals:

What might be the upside for shifted hitters learning to bunt? The undisputed king of bunting to beat the shift is Carlos Pena. Since 2008, with nobody on, Pena has attempted a bunt 65 times. He’s bunted the ball fair 33 times, and he’s reached base 23 times. Even with practice, Pena’s right around a 50/50 fair/not-fair rate, but he’s turned better than a third of his attempts into bases. We find Jay Bruce at 30 attempts, with nine fair and five successful. Brian McCann also has 30 attempts, with eight fair and six successful. What’s clear is that bunting against the shift isn’t automatic. What’s also clear is that it’s worked often, and that these hitters could do better if they just practiced their bunting more. I suppose that’s just a guess, but I feel good about it.


With that, he did notice that with Pena, the Rays, for example, altered their shift to move the 3B up near the line rather than play at SS. So the bunt changed the shift rather than got rid of it.

With all this, I am closer to you, in that I don’t think bunting is automatically the best thing to do. I do think players should practice it and use it occasionally, if only to keep the defense honest.
   59. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2018 at 09:53 AM (#5794935)
these numbers are real interesting. It seems Pena bunting is better than hitting away.

Assuming everyone will use 2 chances to bunt, and assuming its 50% then there's still a sort of discount rate of 25%: the rate where you fail to get the bunt down and now are batting w/ two strikes...

OK, lets say Pena can reach base 66% if you can get the ball in play, and 25% you cant. He's still batting .560 with the bunt and if he fails, then he's batting with two strikes (any number of balls), and maybe he's still batting .190 or so in that situation.

That's definitely a good strategy for him, it seems.

NOTE: McCann is currently one of the slowest players in MLB, that's interesting.

NOTE also: How come Bruce and McCann can only get the ball in play 8 or 9 times? If we assume two attempts shouldnt they get the ball in play 21x?? Oh maybe an attempt means: a single attempt on a single pitch, NOT attemping during an AB.

So these attempted bunts on 60 pitches, got 17 of them down, and maybe pulled the bat back 25 times?

Very interesting stuff here, thanks.
   60. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 07, 2018 at 10:33 AM (#5794949)
Whatever rule they come up with, teams will try to find ways around it.


The most important point in this thread.

Two infielders on each side of second base? The 3B goes to LF, LF goes to CF, CF goes to shallow RF.

Or, 3B stands at SS, SS stands straddling the line up the middle, while 2B stands 50 feet into RF. As soon as pitcher releases the ball, SS shifts greatly towards first.

Regulating the shift is the worst idea ever.

   61. JL72 Posted: December 07, 2018 at 10:55 AM (#5794967)
Or, 3B stands at SS, SS stands straddling the line up the middle, while 2B stands 50 feet into RF. As soon as pitcher releases the ball, SS shifts greatly towards first.


The second article from Sullivan that I posted has video showing the Rays keeping the 3B on the line to take away the bunt from Pena. So that left a hole between third and second - a much more difficult place for a batter to hit the ball. Would increased bunting result in that becoming the norm?

   62. Davo and his Moose Tacos Posted: December 07, 2018 at 11:10 AM (#5794971)
7. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 06, 2018 at 02:51 PM (#5794708)
How do you limit shifts?

MLB already has rules in play that ban shifts: only one player is allowed to position himself in foul territory before the pitch is thrown, the other 8 have to stay in fair territory. So, for example, in an obvious bunting spot, you may want to shift your outfielders behind the catcher (so they may be able to catch a foul popped bunt), but the MLB rules say that shift is not allowed.

So MLB already bans a lot of defensive shifts. Right now they’re considering banning a few more.

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