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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bucs Dugout: Manel: Pirates getting creative with defensive shifts

Both Rollins and Barmes were surprised to hear that BABIP on grounders was up, but they also said that ground ball data wasn’t the whole story when it comes to the utility of shifting.

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.’

“From what I see, looking at line drives may be the place to look [for the effectiveness of the shift]. I mean, we see it with Ryan [Howard], [Domonic] Brown a little bit, and balls that come off that bat, he’s like, ‘Yes!’ and the guy’s sitting there,” Rollins continued, jokingly adding, “And that should be illegal, it’s stacking the field.”

bobm Posted: July 23, 2014 at 03:15 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: clint barmes, clint hurdle, jimmy rollins, phillies, pirates, shift

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   1. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 23, 2014 at 04:37 PM (#4756461)
If you haven't read this article, please do. It's really, really good.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: July 23, 2014 at 06:38 PM (#4756555)
Don't have time to read it at the moment but will say that (a) BA on LD dropped 2012-13 but (b) this appears to be a definitional shift with many more balls being classed as LDs with HR on LD going through the roof. Looks to me like fliners in-play are being coded as liners, leading to a drop in both FB and LD BA (i.e. they're hard to catch fly balls but relatively easy to catch LDs). This could be a perception shift due to shifts -- the fliner to short RF is now being coded as a LD towards the 2B standing in short RF -- but that wouldn't explain the huge jump in HR.

Some Q&D numbers ... in 2012, the AL hit 11,500 "LD" with a 720 BA and 212 HR. In 2013 they hit nearly 15,000 "LD" with a 683 BA but 475 HR. If you add the HR on FB and LD you get about 25,000 both years. On the other hand, there was an increase of 5,000 contact.

Grrr.... f'ing Astros switched leagues. OK, MLB numbers: 2012 was about 25,000 LD, 718 BA, 428 HR ... 2013 had about 30,500 LD, 674 BA but 918 HR.

add FB and LD together and 2012 had 70,000 with about 27,500 hits, 4934 HR and 2013 had about 71,000 with about 27,500 hits and 4661 HR. That's a lot more believable.

It's unfortunate but you simply can't compare LD production for 2013-14 with LD production before that -- the coding has almost certainly changed (intentionally or not), they aren't the same variable.
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: July 23, 2014 at 07:11 PM (#4756567)

If you haven't read this article, please do. It's really, really good.

Yes it is. Excellent article on the Pirates deep thinking, including adjusting the plan based upon the performance of the pitcher that day, if he doesn't have the control to execute, then they modify their strategy since shifting does depend on getting the right location...of course in some respects that could be hurting the pitchers as it allows the batter to guess with a higher percentage of accuracy on location. This is the type of articles on shifting that I enjoy.

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.)

Which is why the Cardinals often shift the third baseman to the second base side of the infield while keeping the shortstop on the shortstop side, (add in that Carpenter was a second baseman last year) and it makes sense to move one player off their position instead of two, just to keep the lineup the same right to left. Although Rollins argues against that claiming that the Shortstop has the largest responsibility when moved.

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.’

I just do not get the argument that you base judging the success on it, by how much it drops the performance on balls hit into the area that your plan is designed to drop the performance on.

It doesn't matter what the drop is on ground balls, line drives, to the left, to the right to the center.... What matters is if there is a drop overall. (whether it be on babip, slugging, iso, number of bases advanced etc....)

If you do the shift against Ortiz(name out of the hat) who was hitting .400 to the right and now is hitting .250 to the right, but his overall numbers were .330 and it remains .330, then he is beating the shift. Or more accurately, the shift isn't affecting his overall performance.

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.

Which is fine and dandy, and I fully agree with it, take the batter out of his game etc. And I fully expect there are going to be several who can't react well to it, and might see a precipitous drop in their performance, to the point that they may not stay in the big leagues for long.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: July 24, 2014 at 10:45 PM (#4757326)
It was good and some data on pull/mid/opp ground balls, not just overall, that I don't think I've seen before. A bit confused though in that he cites b-r as the source for all of his data but I am not aware of that data being on b-r.

Also the "line drive by infield area" numbers look rather suspicious. I assume the opp field are too few to worry much about (if only 8% of GB are to the opp field, I doubt it would be much more for LDs) but I'd like to confirm that. The drop in pull LDs is probably at least partly real but all of this is muddled by the apparent coding change for LD/FB -- not a clue if that's affecting these numbers or not.

   5. Walt Davis Posted: July 24, 2014 at 11:04 PM (#4757335)
And I was expecting to come back to this thread to find lots of posts given the popularity of other shift threads.

Anyway, I was curious about the Pirates specifically. So their overall GB numbers. I'm not sure when they started shifting so I'll start in 2008:

2008 232
2009 252
2010 257
2011 238
2012 228
2013 224
2014 218

So the shift may be working for them on GBs. The big drop was 2010-11 then 2011-12. I recall articles about all the Pirates shifts in 2013, crediting a lot of their defensive improvement to that, but the 2012-13 improvement was fairly small. Still, these numbers are at least consistent with the idea that the Pirate shifts are helping.

Possibly equally important is that they saw a few more GB in 2013 (along with more Ks). 2014 numbers are down so far from 2013 but on pace to be the second highest of this period. Somewhere around a 5-7.5% increase in GB.

From the "aesthatics" viewpoint ... less than 1/3 of PA result in a GB. For the Pirates, even that 10 point drop from 2012-14 represents only about 20 hits a year, one every 8 games. Don't get me wrong, by standard accounting, that's about 16 runs or 1.5-1.7 wins so by all means take it. But one hit stolen every 8 games does not change the fan experience. And even if every team enjoyed 16 runs saving due to shifts, that's still a reduction in scoring of just .1 r/g over 2 years. We lost .2 r/g from 2012-14 so it's not like outlawing the shift is gonna change anything substantially, it would just take us back to something slightly "worse" than 2012.
   6. David Manel Posted: July 25, 2014 at 02:35 AM (#4757388)
Hey Walt, I just pulled in from driving all night, so I'm going to be real brief and I'll try to fill in more in the morning. But, much of the BIP data came via using B-Ref Event Finder. The LD data in particular was limited to LDs to the infield zones. I wonder how much, if at all, that would be affected by the coding changes?
   7. Walt Davis Posted: July 25, 2014 at 03:00 AM (#4757391)
Cool, thanks. I never knew that event finders were that detailed ... never been able to figure them out anyway.

   8. Sunday silence Posted: July 25, 2014 at 03:53 AM (#4757399)
its's an interesting article, however it leaves out a key aspect: Exactly how many times are the Pirates shifting? That would give some idea of how much emphasis to put on whatever numbers you want to cite: pull hitters, pulled balls, ground balls, etc.

Which brings up another pt. There are three charts in the article and not one of them label it as MLB totals. I thought at first it was the charts for the Pirates team, which conceivably might still be but the article seems to be talking about leaguewide trends. Label your charts, people!

Which brings up another point. If those are leaguewide charts, well even this year with shifts at an all time high, it's only 1 in 12 AB, so how much change do we really expect.
   9. bobm Posted: July 25, 2014 at 09:00 AM (#4757446)


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