Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Sunday, July 20, 2014

KMOV: St. Louis defense continues to keep games in reach

The Vision of St. Louis…or Something.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ defense appears to be better this year than last, but manager Mike Matheny is reluctant to give all the credit to Sabermetrics-inspired shifts the team has used this season.

He said the coaching staff does a good job of pre-game discussions about hitters and how they are going to be defended in certain situations. While the Cardinals may have used shifts more this year, Matheny said it’s only one component to the defense. And, although helpful, Sabermetrics don’t yet tell them things like where the defensive players started from when they made a play, the route they took, where they went, etc.

He said the Birds still use a lot of traditional methods to defend hitters, including spray charts, pitcher match-ups, and history. He also said that moving players defensively has been going on forever. When those subtle positioning moves become a shift has never clearly been defined.

Overall, he is pleased with the teams’ defensive performance. “We see good defensive ability (with current Cardinal starters).”  The Cardinals are second in the National League in defense with just 46 errors for a .987 fielding percentage. Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta lead the team in errors with 8 each, but, according to Sabermetrics, have saved nearly as many runs above average for that position.

Repoz Posted: July 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM | 48 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cardinals, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4754667)
Shifts aren't factoring into it in the slightest, positioning is though. Cardinals have been incredibly lucky(skilled?) at defensive positioning this year, often times the ball is hit to where they are. Peralta has shown a level of range nobody in St Louis expected from him, but a lot of his value defensively has been a lot of what looks like routine plays. Carpenter to his left has also been pretty impressive, even with the errors. Carpenter to his right has been pretty non-existent though, so he plays close to the line a lot, to minimize his relative lack of range there.

Add in that the team does like to play their second baseman deep against the slower footed players and that has helped tremendously. (Cardinals did this with Felipe Lopez with great success in the past also)
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 20, 2014 at 01:00 PM (#4754682)
He said the Birds still use a lot of traditional methods to defend hitters, including spray charts, pitcher match-ups, and history.


Right, these 'traditional' methods have nothing to do with the shifts, because they're not at all exactly what the shifts are based on.
   3. Rob_Wood Posted: July 20, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4754697)
omg, cfb is again ridiculous on the topic of shifts. whatinhell do you think is behind the rise in "shifts" throughout baseball? it is, wait for it, spray charts, pitcher match-ups, and history. where do you think defensive positioning comes from, a little birdie whispers where to play in the manager's ear?
   4. bobm Posted: July 20, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4754726)
                                         
Rk       Split Year BAbip  W  L W-L%  ERA
1    SEA Total 2014  .267 52 45 .536 3.10
2    OAK Total 2014  .273 60 37 .619 3.14
3    CIN Total 2014  .277 51 46 .526 3.49
4    LAA Total 2014  .288 58 38 .604 3.77
4    SFG Total 2014  .288 54 43 .557 3.37
4    SDP Total 2014  .288 42 55 .433 3.17
7    STL Total 2014  .291 54 44 .551 3.39
7    BAL Total 2014  .291 53 43 .552 3.86
7    MIL Total 2014  .291 54 44 .551 3.81
10   PIT Total 2014  .294 51 46 .526 3.70
11   NYM Total 2014  .295 46 51 .474 3.53
11   TBR Total 2014  .295 46 53 .465 3.79
13   PHI Total 2014  .296 43 54 .443 3.90
13   CHW Total 2014  .296 47 51 .480 4.14
15   LAD Total 2014  .297 54 45 .545 3.31
16   KCR Total 2014  .298 48 48 .500 3.74
17   TOR Total 2014  .300 50 48 .510 4.05
18   WSN Total 2014  .302 52 43 .547 3.09
19   ATL Total 2014  .305 53 44 .546 3.34
20   BOS Total 2014  .306 45 52 .464 3.80
20   CHC Total 2014  .306 40 56 .417 3.91
20   NYY Total 2014  .306 49 47 .510 3.90
23   DET Total 2014  .308 53 41 .564 4.04
23   COL Total 2014  .308 40 57 .412 5.05
23   MIN Total 2014  .308 44 52 .458 4.29
Rk       Split Year BAbip  W  L W-L%  ERA
26   HOU Total 2014  .312 40 58 .408 4.40
27   ARI Total 2014  .314 42 56 .429 4.25
28   MIA Total 2014  .316 44 52 .458 4.04
28   CLE Total 2014  .316 50 47 .515 3.92
30   TEX Total 2014  .332 39 58 .402 4.90


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/20/2014.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 04:42 PM (#4754751)
omg, cfb is again ridiculous on the topic of shifts. whatinhell do you think is behind the rise in "shifts" throughout baseball? it is, wait for it, spray charts, pitcher match-ups, and history. where do you think defensive positioning comes from, a little birdie whispers where to play in the manager's ear?


I'm not being ridiculous, I'm pointing out that it's not the shifts with the Cardinals that is making the difference. This wasn't a rant against shifts, this was confirming and agreeing with what was in the article and what Matheny said.
He said the coaching staff does a good job of pre-game discussions about hitters and how they are going to be defended in certain situations. While the Cardinals may have used shifts more this year, Matheny said it’s only one component to the defense. And, although helpful, Sabermetrics don’t yet tell them things like where the defensive players started from when they made a play, the route they took, where they went, etc.



I'm not even bagging on shifts in this thread. Just pointing out that the Cardinals defense has been enjoying great positioning and have possibly been lucky or have had excellent scouting. The Cardinals defense this year is not about great defenders as much as it's about "luck" or positioning.


The only thing I bag on the shift is that it hasn't shown any decline league wide in babip, so it's not the primary or even a major reason for the decline in offense. I do not, and have not said it doesn't work or that it doesn't matter, just that it hasn't made a dent in league wide performance and results.


   6. PreservedFish Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4754764)
The only thing I bag on the shift is that it hasn't shown any decline league wide in babip, so it's not the primary or even a major reason for the decline in offense.


Unknowable. Perhaps BABIP would be increasing if not for the shift.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:21 PM (#4754768)
Unknowable. Perhaps BABIP would be increasing if not for the shift.


Seems unlikely. Babip has been pretty steady for the past 20 years.

Rk   Year BAbip
1    2014  .299
2    2013  .297
3    2012  .297
4    2011  .295
5    2010  .297
6    2009  .299
7    2008  .300
8    2007  .303
9    2006  .301
10   2005  .295
11   2004  .297
12   2003  .294
13   2002  .293
14   2001  .296
15   2000  .300
16   1999  .302
17   1998  .300
18   1997  .301
19   1996  .301
20   1995  .298 


Again, I'm not arguing against the shift, heck I like teams using defense and love the fact that the TV broadcasts for the first time in ever, is mentioning defense positioning on the broadcasts consistently (beyond double play depth, playing in, and playing the corners--yet never showing it) and I fully expect it works against certain types of hitters, but this league wide jump onto the shifts isn't the reason offense is down. As Walt points out, it's higher K's, lower walks and fewer homeruns.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:24 PM (#4754770)
Still unknowable.

How about SLGbip? Just curious now.
   9. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4754772)
but slug has gone down in the past 4, these same years the shift has been increasing. KOs have increase as well. Slug. had been pretty much level from 05-09, KOs were increasing then as well.

I dont claim to prove anything, but just that if you think it is a relevant statistic that leaguewide babip has remained level, then why isnt slug equally relevant?

Both sides cant be right. Either primates are right that the shift is not making any difference or baseball teams are correct in increasing the number of shifts every year. Have baseball managers gone mad?
   10. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:32 PM (#4754776)
As Walt points out, it's higher K's, lower walks and fewer homeruns.



how can we be sure, increased shifting isnt a part of this?
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:32 PM (#4754777)
How about SLGbip? Just curious now


Don't have that piece of information. Here is that chart with a few more pieces of information including homeruns(didn't have hr/9 though) bb(but again no bb/9) but so and so/9 and so/w to give you an idea of some of the trends, does have slugging but that isn't what you asked for.

Year       R    ER   HR    BB    SO  WHIP SO9 SO/W   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS BAbip
                                                                            
2014   12015 11050 2576  8628 22420 1.288 7.7 2.60 .252 .316 .390 .706  .299
2013   20255 18750 4661 14640 36710 1.300 7.6 2.51 .253 .318 .396 .714  .297
2012   21017 19340 4934 14709 36426 1.309 7.6 2.48 .255 .319 .405 .724  .297
2011   20808 19067 4552 15018 34488 1.316 7.1 2.30 .255 .321 .399 .720  .295
2010   21308 19629 4613 15778 34306 1.347 7.1 2.17 .257 .325 .403 .728  .297
2009   22419 20779 5042 16620 33591 1.390 7.0 2.02 .262 .333 .418 .751  .299
2008   22585 20830 4878 16337 32884 1.391 6.8 2.01 .264 .333 .416 .749  .300
2007   23322 21583 4957 16079 32189 1.406 6.7 2.00 .268 .336 .423 .758  .303
2006   23599 21758 5386 15847 31655 1.408 6.6 2.00 .269 .337 .432 .768  .301
2005   22325 20612 5017 15207 30644 1.369 6.4 2.02 .264 .330 .419 .749  .295
2004   23376 21527 5451 16222 31828 1.400 6.6 1.96 .266 .335 .428 .763  .297
2003   22978 21185 5207 15889 30801 1.383 6.4 1.94 .264 .333 .422 .755  .294
2002   22408 20570 5059 16246 31394 1.376 6.5 1.93 .261 .331 .417 .748  .293
2001   23199 21247 5458 15806 32404 1.379 6.7 2.05 .264 .332 .427 .759  .296
2000   24971 22918 5693 18237 31356 1.468 6.5 1.72 .270 .345 .437 .782  .300
1999   24691 22607 5528 17891 31119 1.463 6.5 1.74 .271 .345 .434 .778  .302
1998   23297 21387 5064 16447 31893 1.403 6.6 1.94 .266 .335 .420 .755  .300
1997   21604 19729 4640 15666 29937 1.412 6.7 1.91 .267 .337 .419 .756  .301
1996   22831 20780 4962 16093 29308 1.440 6.5 1.82 .270 .340 .427 .767  .301
1995   19554 17822 4081 14240 25425 1.421 6.4 1.79 .267 .338 .417 .755  .298 
   12. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4754778)

I'm not being ridiculous, I'm pointing out that it's not the shifts with the Cardinals that is making the difference


but as Rob is suggesting: arent shifts based on spray charts? Isnt defensive positioning a subset of shifting? it seems both of these aspects are a part of a continuum that includes defensive shifting and minor positioning. I dont know how you can purport to separate out the effect of large shift from minor positioning.

do you have numbers for all this?
   13. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:35 PM (#4754779)
Shifts aren't factoring into it in the slightest, positioning is though


I thought shifts & positioning were the same thing? What am I missing?
   14. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:38 PM (#4754780)
and I fully expect [the shift] works against certain types of hitters...


if you believe this, then you just contradicted your pt that the shift isnt having an effect.
   15. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:42 PM (#4754785)
Take these two assumptions along with the data and see where it leads:

a) increasing KOs are, in part, a function of a hitters approach;
b) if a hitter choose to swing harder, KOs and slug will increase.

Now, looking at the past four years, say from 09. Isnt it possible that hitters are swinging harder, and they would have expected an increase in slug. but in fact it has gone down

maybe the increase we see in KOs, would under normal conditions have produced a 20 pt increase in slug. Instead slug has gone 20 pts or so.

isnt it possible that effectively 40 pts in slug have been lost? isnt some of this from shifting?

you can just say, that KOs are totally a function of pitching. it can in part be a function of hitters approach.

You are making way too many assumptions, to insist that decrease in run production is entirely in the hands of pitchers.
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:43 PM (#4754786)
but slug has gone down in the past 4, these same years the shift has been increasing. KOs have increase as well. Slug. had been pretty much level from 04-09, KOs were increasing then as well.


Expanding it out to 4 seasons is a little bit dishonest, basically 2013 and 2014 are the first heavy use of the shifts.


2010 and 2011 had basically the same amount of shifts, roughly 2400, 2012 had 4500, 2013 had about 7500, and 2014 was on pace for around 14,000.

Do I think shifts work? No clue, but the big picture evidence is saying that there isn't a noticeable drop in performance in what you would expect the shifts to factor into. Obviously this is still early type of data gathering and isn't specific to one player or one hitter or one team so you can't draw conclusions based upon it, but right now the big picture evidence is that there isn't strong evidence to support that the shifts are figuring into the decline in league wide offense.

   17. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:45 PM (#4754787)
I thought shifts & positioning were the same thing? What am I missing?


Shifts are extreme positioning...when there is 3 fielders on one side of the infield.... Playing a second baseman in short right field because you have a left handed hitting slow runner, line drive hitter up to bat is not a shift. Playing the corners is not a shift, playing double play depth is not a shift.

   18. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:46 PM (#4754788)
I thought shifts & positioning were the same thing? What am I missing?


They're similar, but I wouldn't call them the same thing (more like shifting is a subset of positioning). The shift is obviously referring to the specific act of overloading your fielders to one side of the field. Positioning would be where you play all of your players, which can include a full shift or something more simple like playing your 2B deep or your centerfielder shaded to left center.

It's certainly possible that CFB is correct - the Cardinals' defense is benefiting from overall positioning gains, but the shift itself isn't responsible.

And CFB didn't mention "spray charts, pitcher match-ups and history," so I'm not sure why he's getting hit over the head with that.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:46 PM (#4754789)

if you believe this, then you just contradicted your pt that the shift isnt having an effect.


It isn't having a league wide detrimental effect on offense. One guy in one situation isn't noticeable.

Again, my argument is about league wide decrease in offense, and that the shifts is not responsible for that drop.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 05:57 PM (#4754796)
Now if someone wanted to argue that defensive shifts when done properly is making a difference and then point to a few teams who are doing it properly as evidence, I probably wouldn't be shocked. But as a Cardinal fan, you have seen the Reds shift Matt Adams all season long and him constantly beat them, because he's not really a shift susceptible player. And that the teams who are shifting because it's trendy while not really getting the concept is dragging the results down, I could get behind that if evidence is presented.

   21. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 07:15 PM (#4754829)
But 2010 was an increase in shifts from 09, yes? Then why is that unfair to use the period 09-14?
   22. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 07:18 PM (#4754830)
the big picture evidence is saying that there isn't a noticeable drop in performance in what you would expect the shifts to factor into.


no it's not. If your basis is that babip has remained level, then why is not fair to bring up that slug has decreased? I asked the same question a moment ago and still no reponse.
   23. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 07:21 PM (#4754831)
And CFB didn't mention "spray charts, pitcher match-ups and history," so I'm not sure why he's getting hit over the head with that.


he's getting hit over the head because he made the unusual statement that Cards are not benefiting from the shift but they are benefiting from better positioning.

Now how can someone make that statement without being able to sift out the one from the other within the data set?
   24. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 07:24 PM (#4754836)
It isn't having a league wide detrimental effect on offense. One guy in one situation isn't noticeable.


that's not the issue. The issue is: is 7500 AB with a shift on, having a noticeable effect on offense?

If your position is the shift doesnt make a difference, then 0 x 7500 = 0. No effect. 7500 AB no effect on offense.
   25. Sunday silence Posted: July 20, 2014 at 07:26 PM (#4754837)
the biggest issue of all is this theory that pitching ALONE is responsible for the increase in KOs.

is that really true? No one believes that BB are a sole function of pitching. That cant be.

So why are strikeouts a sole function of pitching? Go ahead show us right now how that true.
   26. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 20, 2014 at 07:52 PM (#4754846)
he's getting hit over the head because he made the unusual statement that Cards are not benefiting from the shift but they are benefiting from better positioning.


It's only an unusual statement if you think the shift and better positioning are the same thing, which they're not.

Now how can someone make that statement without being able to sift out the one from the other within the data set?


Since he's talking about the Cards only, I presume he's doing it through anecdotal observation, believing the shift has not been driving their defensive success. Obviously there are issues with that kind of analysis, but I'm not about to toss out his observations as complete nonsense either.

To make similar conclusions about league-wide defense, he'd need better data, though the steady BABIP is a mark in his favor. As for the slugging drop, I'd like to see if it was caused by that decrease in homers and rise in strikeouts only, or if it also involves doubles/triples (which then forces us to ask if the shift is decreasing homers as batters try to hit against it. My suspicion is no, but to figure it out you'd probably have to compare HR numbers of those being shifted against and see how they compare to LG AVG).

I don't see anything outlandish about what he's written (in this thread, I can't speak to others). He doesn't think the Cards are benefiting greatly from the shift, but does think they are fortunate in terms of overall positioning. He's skeptical the shifting trend has had much of an effect on suppressing offense since the babip numbers are fairly similar, though noting that it likely works in individual instances (which, if it was having no effect overall, would also mean it wasn't working in other instances).


is that really true? No one believes that BB are a sole function of pitching. That cant be.

So why are strikeouts a sole function of pitching? Go ahead show us right now how that true.


Do you think shifting is responsible? If not, it doesn't really matter what the cause is. If you do, then I'd be interested in hearing your theory why.
   27. jwb Posted: July 20, 2014 at 08:20 PM (#4754858)
The difference between "positioning" and a "shift" is really arbitrary. If a SS is a few feet from 2B on one side, it's positioning. If he's a few feet on the other side, it's a shift. Same thing, just a different magnitude.
   28. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 20, 2014 at 08:27 PM (#4754863)
The difference between "positioning" and a "shift" is really arbitrary.


Can be, sure. But not entirely.

Moving your second baseman deeper is positioning. Hugging the line with your corners is positioning. Shading your centerfielder to the power alley is positioning. That's not close to the same thing that's going on with a full-fledged shift.

   29. Walt Davis Posted: July 20, 2014 at 08:41 PM (#4754866)
As Walt points out, it's higher K's, lower walks and fewer homeruns.

I appreciate the shout out but you are slightly misquoting me. Increased K-rate and fewer HR are the same thing in this context. HR/FB or HR/contact are pretty much stable over the last 20 years although there does appear to be a drop for LHB this year. Batters are hitting the ball about the same as ever, they are hitting it less.

a) increasing KOs are, in part, a function of a hitters approach;
b) if a hitter choose to swing harder, KOs and slug will increase.


Increasing Ks were probably mostly a change in hitting approach from 1992-1996 or thereabouts. This is when you see the big jump in on-contact production.

Since then, increases in Ks have not been matched by increases in on-contact production which suggests that it is more a change in pitcher approach or, most likely, a BIGGER STRIKE ZONE.

The connection between SLG and Ks is not what you seem to think. It is a trade-off between on-contact production and K-rate. Presumably different types of hitters optimize that in different ways (say Luis Castillo vs. Adam Dunn). What we do know of course it that if you shift a PA from contact to K, then SLG goes down. The only way to increase SLG while increasing Ks is to have an even greater increase in SLG on contact.

That is, swinging harder should lead to an increase in SLG on-contact. That is not the same thing as an increase in SLG.

Say a batter Ks 20% of his ABs and SLGs 550 on-contact. That comes to a 440 SLG.
Say that batter ups his K rate to 25% of his ABs. He now has to SLG 587 on-contact just to maintain that 440 SLG.

But why would IF shifts impact SLG on-contact? ISO on GB is and always has been trivial ... on the order of .020

But, you ask for it, you got it ... MLB BIP production (I'll use OBP which will include the SFs as outs and SLG)

2014 299/383
2013 297/379
2012 297/382
2011 298/379
2010 297/381
2009 299/386
2008 300/387
2007 303/392
2006 301/390
2005 295/380
2004 297/383
2003 294/379
2002 293/378
2001 296/383
2000 300/387

So there was a bump up from 2006 to 2009. It was back down in 2010 before the shifting fad. It is at the same level it was at the height of sillyball. Not that it's enough to worry about but 2014 is seeing the highest production since 2009. Again not big but 2014 is also showing the highest BA/SLG on ground balls since 2007 and the second highest of the 2000-2014 period.

Regardless, we are talking about trivial changes. Here's something that, y'know, might actually make a difference:

2014 2.60 K/BB
2013 2.51
2012 2.48
2011 2.30
2010 2.17
2009 2.02
2008 2.01
2007 2.00
2006 2.00
2005 2.02
2004 1.96
2003 1.94
2002 1.93
2001 2.05
2000 1.72

That of course is primarily driven by a jump in K/9 from a pretty steady 6.5 through 2006 or 2007 to 7.7 K/9 today. The earlier jump of the early 90s was from about 5.7 to 6.5 and was more than compensated for by a massive jump in on-contact production -- so, yes, probably related to a change in hitter approach, certainly to the hitter's benefit regardless. Now we've seen a much more massive increase in Ks with no improvement in on-contact production -- if it's the hitters' approaches, why are they doing it?

There's an elephant in the room and it's the K-rates. Please explain the big jump in K rates before wasting time on trivial crap like shifts and BIP production.

Unfortunately the split finder doesn't do "on-contact". Unfortunately it doesn't combine FB and LD into one category and unfortunately there's been what seems to be a definitional change in how those are being categorized. Unfortunately for some reason, there is no "batting ratio" finder or, to my knowledge, any other way to easily display league totals by year outside of the regular stats. But fine, for the last time, I'll do a bit of the heavy lifting:

2014 7.1% HR/FB (this does include LDs)
2013 7.5
2012 8.1
2011 7.3
2010 7.3
2009 7.8
2008 7.5
2007 7.5
2006 7.9
2005 7.5
2004 8.1
2003 7.9
2002 7.4
2001 8.0
2000 8.0

So a bit of a drop but again that drop occurred in 2010 (other than the 2012 blip) or possibly 2005. Mainly it just bounces around a bit.

Now, when you're done explaining the huge jump in Ks, explain how IF shifts affect HR/FB. Please back that up with actual data.

Cuz I know what you're gonna say, batters are going the other way more to defeat the shift. Problem is, LHB are pulling the ball MORE than they used to. Despite a much lower IP%, 2013 saw the 2nd most "LHB pull" PAs of the 2000-14 period barely losing to 2004. 2014 is on pace to surpass both of those years. Now it is true that "pull LHB" production is down substantially this year in both BA and SLG terms but it's still way more productive than not pulling the ball. RHB pull proportions look to be about the same after adjusting for IP% but we haven't seen any change in RHB pull production from 2011-14 (after a huge drop from 2010-11).

Here are some overall numbers. Other than the already noted drop in LHB ISO -- clearly an issue with non-GB ISO since GB ISO has always been trivial -- we don't see a drop that coincides with the shifting fad. As with some of the other data, we do see a shift around 2010.

BA/SLG LHB RHB
2014 252/386 252/394
2013 254/399 253/394
2012 254/403 255/407
2011 257/401 253/397
2010 258/405 257/401
2009 265/422 260/415
2008 267/421 262/413
2007 269/426 268/420
2006 272/440 267/427
2005 267/422 262/416
2004 269/433 264/424
2003 267/425 262/420
2002 267/429 257/408
2001 270/440 260/417
2000 273/443 269/433

So the shift and any downward trend that might exist coincides with the jump in K/9 and K/BB. It doesn't track, or at least not very well, with the shifting fad. Given shifting has been skyrocketing, you'd think we'd see substantial change in the overall numbers and, possibly this year, we are with LHB.

Why is LHB ISO down? In 2013 LHB hit HR at a rate of 2.55% of PA; in 2014 it's 2.15%. They are 175 HR "behind". That alone is a 16 point drop in SLG. Now explain why IF shifts affect HR/PA (or HR/AB) rates. Explain why they do despite the fact LHB are actually pulling the ball a bit more. Is your explanation more about pitch location than it is about defensive positioning? Please provide data to support your interpretation.

And don't be so daft as to view this as "anti-shift". This is "pro-data." If you have data showing the effectiveness of IF shifts, please share it. If you have data-supported ideas about why shifts are effective but we're not seeing much change in the overall numbers, please share. If you have an explanation for why IF shifts affect HR rates, please share. Speculation that things might be different without the shifts is useless.
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 08:43 PM (#4754869)
he's getting hit over the head because he made the unusual statement that Cards are not benefiting from the shift but they are benefiting from better positioning.

Now how can someone make that statement without being able to sift out the one from the other within the data set?


By watching the games. The Cardinals do not shift that much(compared to other teams in the league) but they do do a lot of defensive positioning that isn't traditional.


no it's not. If your basis is that babip has remained level, then why is not fair to bring up that slug has decreased? I asked the same question a moment ago and still no reponse.


Slugging has decreased because of more strikeouts....and fewer homeruns. The strikeout trend has been ongoing forever, so the argument is that the the shift is reducing homeruns, not a far fetched argument, but I'm not seeing it right now... nearly all the drop in slugging can be attributed to an increase in strikeouts...



the biggest issue of all is this theory that pitching ALONE is responsible for the increase in KOs.


Not sure what idiot would ever imply or say that, but they need to stop talking baseball. Only thing I have ever, ever argued on this issue is that there is no evidence that the shift is a large factor in the decrease in offense. The three biggest factors have been and is clearly, drop in homeruns, increase in strikeouts, decrease in walks.... during the offensive explosion of the 2000/1990's, walks were going up, they are now going down. (and on this thread all I said was it wasn't the reason for the Cardinals improved defense)
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 08:53 PM (#4754871)
I appreciate the shout out but you are slightly misquoting me. Increased K-rate and fewer HR are the same thing in this context. HR/FB or HR/contact are pretty much stable over the last 20 years although there does appear to be a drop for LHB this year. Batters are hitting the ball about the same as ever, they are hitting it less.


Relative to ratio, sure, but in regards to slugging percentage they are two different things. He is arguing that slugging percentage drop is possibly caused by the shift, when nearly all of that drop can be argued it's caused by increase strikeouts and a drop in homeruns....he might be arguing for the drop homeruns to be caused by shifts, but as you point out, homeruns on contact is still leaving at relatively the same rate and the real drop in homeruns is because of fewer balls hit into play. (Guess it's a semantic issue)
   32. Rob_Wood Posted: July 20, 2014 at 09:05 PM (#4754875)
Jeez, nobody gives a damn about "shifts". The salient point is that analytical approaches have for the first time in the last few years been systemically applied to defensive positioning. The sabermetric community, rightly, embraces this development.

Many of us can remember when analytical approaches were first applied to offense, such as Earl Weaver's index cards to identify platoon advantages, base-out analysis that showed that sacrifice bunts are typically a poor strategy, the high cost of caught stealings diminishing the value of a stolen base, the general lack of importance of lineup construction, the over-reliance on low-OBP high-steal leadoff hitters, etc.

It really wasn't that long ago that the offensive side of the ball (in-game strat, lineup construction, roster construction, etc.) made great strides in stopping teams/managers from doing many dumb things and start doing more smart things. Well, the time has come for the same general approach to be applied to the defensive side of the ball.

Of course, common sense suggests that the benefits of defensive analytics are/will be much less than the benefits of offensive analytics. But to constantly harp on the unimportance of shifts is to not appreciate how far sabermetrics has come in baseball. Let's agree to shift the discussion away from "shifts" and refer to "defensive positioning". Managers now have the historical data (spray charts, etc.) in order to position their fielders where they can convert the most balls in play into outs. What else would anyone suggest that they do?
   33. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 09:14 PM (#4754882)
Jeez, nobody gives a damn about "shifts". The salient point is that analytical approaches have for the first time in the last few years been systemically applied to defensive positioning. The sabermetric community, rightly, embraces this development.


And if any, and I mean ANY article on the increased defense quality would focus on that instead of the increase in shifts then your point would have merit. As it stands all the writers are talking about, all the tv people are talking about is shifts and not positioning.

But again, even then, the results don't match up with what you would expect them to, at least league wide. (Which could be simply because non-analytical teams are trying to do the positioning thing and aren't doing it right thereby dragging the rest of the league down) If the positioning was working, you fully expect to see a drop in babip.

Of course, common sense suggests that the benefits of defensive analytics are/will be much less than the benefits of offensive analytics. But to constantly harp on the unimportance of shifts is to not appreciate how far sabermetrics has come in baseball. Let's agree to shift the discussion away from "shifts" and refer to "defensive positioning". Managers now have the historical data (spray charts, etc.) in order to position their fielders where they can convert the most balls in play into outs. What else would anyone suggest that they do?


And yet that is not what is happening league wide. They are doing all this positioning with no regards to game situation(some teams at least) and are assuming the batters go up there and treat everything the same...Just yesterday the Cardinals didn't shift with a shift batter up, because there was a man on second base, the minute they got two strikes, then they put the shift on. That is smart positioning. The Reds have been putting the shift on Matt Adams all year long, all at bats and he doesn't mind poking the ball through the opposite side, especially with a man on first or second, but they still insist on shifting against him even though it clearly isn't working for them.

   34. Rob_Wood Posted: July 20, 2014 at 09:39 PM (#4754894)
So what is your fricking point?
   35. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 09:44 PM (#4754895)
So what is your fricking point?


Same thing I have been saying.

On this thread first..
The Cardinals improved defense is not because of the shift, but because of improved positioning(and maybe luck)

and on other threads and later on this thread since you brought it up.
That defensive positioning is not the cause of the drop in offense this season.

   36. Rob_Wood Posted: July 20, 2014 at 09:54 PM (#4754900)
Why do you constantly do that? You realize that this is a sabermetric-based website? If you want to rail against the prevalence of the over-shifts, why don't you do it in other places such as on MLB team-based websites or local newspaper comment sections? It has gotten quite annoying having you ##### and moan about the unimportance of over-shifts on BBTF threads.
   37. bobm Posted: July 20, 2014 at 09:59 PM (#4754903)
[29] But why would IF shifts impact SLG on-contact? [...] Now, when you're done explaining the huge jump in Ks, explain how IF shifts affect HR/FB.

Two questions about the premise:

1. Data aside, what would one have to believe about the mechanics of outfield shifting/extreme repositioning to hypothesize that OF shifting affects SLG and fly ball hitting? What if the focus on IF shifting comes from the noticeably different appearance, especially on TV?

2. How could infield shifting improve the effectiveness of outfield shifting against fly balls and line drives? (Eg. Does playing SS and/or 2B in short right field allow CF and RF to play deeper than otherwise and/or cut down the area they need to cover?)

Consider this article from March:

To watch the Tampa Bay Raysor [sic] the Pittsburgh Pirates play the field these days is to understand the future of baseball.

Forget the idea of nine guys arrayed on the diamond, each patrolling their own assigned territory. A left-handed hitter is up. The shortstop moves to the other side of second base. OK, you see that shift once in a while. It has been an occasional way to face extreme pull-hitters since at least the days of Ted Williams.

But wait—now the center fielder, too, moves toward right field while the right fielder guards the line. The left side of the field is now a huge gaping maw. And they keep on shifting between pitches. With two strikes, for this particular hitter, they know to drift closer to their traditional posts—or if they don't know, there is a coach with a clipboard full of research who signals to them. [...]

It is statistics like these that have convinced even old-school die-hards to try just about anything, said Rick Sofield, who is in charge of the Pirates' outfield strategy. At 57, Solfield should be old-school but isn't, in part because he played for the late manager Gene Mauch, one of the modern game's first innovators.

"I'd shove the whole darn club in the outfield if I thought it would get us an out," said Sofield. "This is the information we have, and we use it. If the information starts lying, then we've got a problem. But right now the information isn't lying." [...]

For the Pirates, shifts don't just happen in the infield. One afternoon last week, Sofield and outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Travis Snyder were busy working out a complex pattern of hand signals denoting how deep and how many degrees over from their traditional positions they would play. A series of numbers incomprehensible to the lay person, (6-12, 12-12-6, etc.), dominated a conversation that sounded a lot more like a quarterback's signal calls than anything a center fielder might recite.


The Yankees have been shifting their infield apparently without great success. This article notes:
The Yankees' outfield positioning is not impacted by where they place their infielders, coaches say, because they view it as two separate defensive alignments.


Maybe that's not optimal after all.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 10:00 PM (#4754904)
Why do you constantly do that? You realize that this is a sabermetric-based website? If you want to rail against the prevalence of the over-shifts, why don't you do it in other places such as on MLB team-based websites or local newspaper comment sections? It has gotten quite annoying having you ##### and moan about the unimportance of over-shifts on BBTF threads.


Ignore features works still.

If this is a saber site, then shouldn't people be bringing data to counter act the argument? As it stands You are more or less Jonestowning the whole thing. "They are using data to make a decision, therefore it must be good."

My argument is simple. If shifts was affecting offense, it's most likely place it would show up is babip, and babip is not dropping. Therefore shifts probably isn't the reason for the decline in offense.
   39. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 10:05 PM (#4754907)
1. Data aside, what would one have to believe about the mechanics of outfield shifting/extreme repositioning to hypothesize that OF shifting affects SLG and fly ball hitting? What if the focus on IF shifting comes from the noticeably different appearance, especially on TV?


The theory is that shifting affects slugging because the batters approach the at bat differently, in an attempt to go opposite field which means (in theory) fewer line drives. At least that is one theory on how the shift affects slugging.

2. How could infield shifting improve the effectiveness of outfield shifting against fly balls and line drives? (Eg. Does playing SS and/or 2B in short right field allow CF and RF to play deeper than otherwise and/or cut down the area they need to cover?)

That is also another possible point in favor of arguing for the drop in slugging.
   40. Walt Davis Posted: July 20, 2014 at 10:48 PM (#4754937)
As to the Cards in particular ...

last year they were -35 Rfield, so far this year +38.

The primary offenders last year were mostly in the OF -- Beltran -6, Holliday -13, Jay -10 -- and Freese at -14. Two of those guys aren't there anymore, Holliday is at -3, Jay is at +1. They also added Bourjos at +5 and Carpenter is +5 at 3B.

Basically last year, their 1B/3B/LF/CF/RF (looking at everybody with reasonable playing time there) were -43 (may have missed some). I get a +14 so far this year so that's 57 runs. 1/3 of that is Carpenter at 3B and Adams is also better at 1B so IF positioning could have something to do with that.

The rest is pretty much Peralta at +15 this year while Kozma and Descalso combined for 0 last year. Peralta has been average throughout his career and it's unlikely he's turned into Ozzie at 32 so that probably is at least partly due to positioning (and maybe good ol' fluke ... and maybe still having shift issues with defensive runs).

So about half of the improvement so far has been IF, half OF.
   41. cardsfanboy Posted: July 20, 2014 at 11:07 PM (#4754941)
The rest is pretty much Peralta at +15 this year while Kozma and Descalso combined for 0 last year. Peralta has been average throughout his career and it's unlikely he's turned into Ozzie at 32 so that probably is at least partly due to positioning (and maybe good ol' fluke ... and maybe still having shift issues with defensive runs).


And Peralta is a big reason I think that it is positioning/luck. He's shown some great range on very rare occasion, but frequently this year, a ball has been hit, and as a fan you are thinking "Oh now, that is where the shortstop can't get to." then the camera pans up and you see Peralta scooting two steps over to field the ball routinely. I know it's not true, but as a fan it feels like nothing gets through on the shortstop side of the infield this year.
   42. Walt Davis Posted: July 20, 2014 at 11:33 PM (#4754952)
the biggest issue of all is this theory that pitching ALONE is responsible for the increase in KOs.

This isn't the "theory."

Around 1993-94, Ks increased while on-contact production sky-rocketed. Batters were better off in this new world and it seems likely this was driven by a change in batting approach.

Around 2010, Ks started to increase again while on-contact production stayed the same or even dipped and consequently scoring went down. Why would hitters do this? If it was their approach, they should stop and go back to the world where they K'd 20% less while hitting just as well on-contact.

Given this latest shift was to the detriment to batters, it seems unlikely it is due to a change in hitting approach.

Was it a change in pitcher approach? Maybe. I see no less reason to think this than to think a change in hitting approach led to the dramatic shift from 92-94 and much more likely than blaming the 2009-11 shifts on the victims.

But the simplest explanation would be THE STRIKE ZONE IS BIGGER. Nobody has to make radical changes to their approach for this explanation to work. Batters can still swing at the same pitches only more of the pitches they don't swing at are now called strikes. Batters may have to swing at more crap pitches because they're being called strikes. If those extra strikes are at the bottom of the zone, this would likely lead to more GB, higher GB/FB and therefore lower HR/PA. Pitchers don't have to gain velocity or movement, they just have to benefit from some of the pitches that used to be balls becoming strikes.

Is that what happened? I don't know. But it's the Occam's Razor explanation. Here's a SABR study of the pitch f/x era:

http://sabr.org/sites/default/files/Roegele-Strike Zone During PITCHfx ERA-2014_THT_Annual.pdf

It claims that the average called strike zone in 2008 was 436 sq inches and the same in 2009-10. In 2011 it was 448, in 2012 it was 456 and in 2013 it was 459. It also presents a table for the size of the average strike zone within 1.75 feet of the ground and that has gone from 0 in 2008-9 to 6 to 11 to 19 to 30. That's about 2 extra inches at the bottom of the strike zone. This has been compensated for somewhat with more balls called on the inside and outside edges.

All told the paper reports that while strike percentages for (close) outside LHB declined from 29% to 19% and (close) outside RHB from 41% to 34%, the strike percentage on low strikes (not separated by handedness) rose from 30% to 44%. A quote:

There is no mistaking the trend across the league toward calling more strikes
on pitches in the lowest potential area of the strike zone. In particular, the
called strike rate for all pitches in the band between 1.5 feet and 1.75 feet off
the ground has skyrocketed, more than doubling since the first seasons where
PITCHf/x data was available, from 14.6 percent originally to 32.2 percent this
past season.


Not surprisingly, this has been met with an increase in low pitches. Looking at pitches within 2.5 feet of the ground, this has gone from 54.5% to 59%. Possibly some teams read the paper:

The called strike zone data would suggest that, in particular,
pitchers may not be taking full advantage of the area over home plate between 1.5
feet and 1.75 feet off the ground that we identified earlier as the fastest growing area
for called strike percentage. Pitches to this area have risen from 7.4 percent of all
pitches in the first three seasons of PITCHf/x data to only 8.2 percent of all pitches
in 2013, despite more than twice the likelihood of being a called strike.


He highlights Fister and Weaver. Fister used to throw 13% pitches in the low zone, threw 21% of his pitches there in 2013. Weaver, possibly not the brightest bulb, went the other way from 18% to 15% while also greatly increasing his outside offerings to LHB.

Not surprisingly, batters were swinging a bit less often at the outside stuff and a bit more often at the low stuff although these are not dramatic -- swings on these low pitches went from 45% to 48%.

More: The net effect of the changing strike zone has been an increase in called strikeouts
and a decrease in walks


The number of called strikeouts on outside pitches went from 1509 in 2008 to 1075 in 2013. The number in the low zone went from 1406 to 2338. That's a net increase of 500 Ks. Meanwhile, ball 4 on outside pitches went down by only 29 while on low pitches they declined by 656.

What about swinging strikeouts? These were basically flat on outside pitches (up for LHB, down for RHB) but rose by 482 on low pitches. We're now up to 1000 extra Ks and 650 fewer walks in this new strike zone (not necessarily all due to this new strike zone of course).

Now there does appear to be more to the story: To put those numbers
in perspective, in 2008 the league strikeout rate was 17.5 percent and the unintentional
walk rate was 8 percent. If the 2008 strikeout and walk totals were adjusted by
the effects that we’ve documented here, the strikeout rate would rise to 18 percent
and the unintentional walk rate would drop to 7.6 percent. The actual 2013 average
strikeout rate was 19.9 percent and the unintentional walk rate was 7.4 per cent.
In other words, the changing strike zone has made an impact, but it’s only part of
a bigger story.


He tries to calculate runs lost on ball/strike calls and comes up with the magical number of 714 so it must be true. To put some context to that number, if we subtract this number of runs from the
2008 season total, the average number of runs per team per game drops from 4.65
to 4.50. In 2013 the average number of runs scored by a team in each game was 4.17. So you could say that one-third of the offensive decrease over the last five years has
been due to the growing strike zone.


Unfortunately the paper doesn't present outcomes on contact in these changing zones.

So there's a starting point for discussion based on some actual evidence. You can either tinker with the data he worked with and see if you come to the same conclusions or we can take it on faith and turn attention to the non-strike-zone reasons for the jump in K rates. Based on his estimation (not checked) the K-zone changes account for about 20% of the jump in strikeouts and 2/3 of the drop in walks from 2008-13 and about 1/3 of the drop in runs (i.e. adjusting for the shift towards unfavorable counts).

   43. Sunday silence Posted: July 21, 2014 at 01:47 AM (#4754971)
OK lots of good stuff here. Thanks for all that data and work, very helpful.

First from CFB:

By watching the games. The Cardinals do not shift that much(compared to other teams in the league) but they do do a lot of defensive positioning that isn't traditional.


Ok, I did not know that was your basis, and I did not know they dont really shift much or at all. Perfectly willing to accept your observations. Point made. The article here is about the Cards, so perfectly relevant information. It may not explain the league wide thing but I get this now.

Based on Walt's stuff. I will try to summarize in order to save some time.

SUMMARY: The league wide drop in ba, slug and (to some extent) obp after 2009 is primarily due to a larger strike zone. While in some eras a change in approach by pitcher and/or batter may cause such changes, that is not the case here. That is because slug. on balls in play has not changed, if batters were swinging harder slug on bip would have to go up.

Ok, hopefully that summarizes his position, please feel free to correct me.

I understand much of what you are saying. I agree with much of what you are saying. I will try to focus on the points that I am not clear on or not convinced. here is the biggest one, lets get that out of the way:

this from post 29:


2014 299/383
2013 297/379
2012 297/382
2011 298/379
2010 297/381
2009 299/386
2008 300/387
2007 303/392...


This appears to be OBP/slug for balls in play, correct? (I wish you would label this stuff)

The problem, as I mentioned in the previous thread is that this is for the league as a whole. The shift is only being employed vs SELECTED HITTERS. Currently about 14,000 PA (or AB not sure which) will have the shift this year. So it does not necessarily follow that those hitting into the shift are not changing their approach, I am not sure if they are or are not; but this particular data does not prove that their approach remains the same.

I do not disagree with your overall pt. that increased strike zone is likely the cause of the drop in offense. The shift in 2010 and 2011 is a fraction of the ABs, so your overall point here must be correct unless there is something else we are missing.

But I am still not sure if hitters are changing their approach when the shift is on. We need more data, they might be they might not be. I am agnostic. it may also be that some hitters are going the opposite way and/or bunting, while others are swinging away. These may be cancelling each other.

Pt 2.
It claims that the average called strike zone in 2008 was 436 sq inches and the same in 2009-10. In 2011 it was 448, in 2012 it was 456 and in 2013 it was 459...


Okay rather than parse through much of that, let me just ask:

Walt, is it your best guess that the increased strike zone is basically a cliff shaped drop off (from 09-10, or whatever consecutive years) or is it more of a gradual, sloping drop? Because I think that is important, looking at the slug/obp/ba data from 2010-2014 it appears to be basically a cliff dive in 2010, and the next four years it's basically a flat line. My opinion, a cliff dive drop in strike zone size would be consistent with the drop in offense, a gradual slope might indication the connection between the two is tenuous.

the rest of these are minor...

Pt. 3. this from Bob M:

What if the focus on IF shifting comes from the noticeably different appearance, especially on TV?


I read this sentence 10 times and cannot understand what you are saying. Are you saying that people who track shifts may be making mistakes about whether a shift is on because the tv does not show the fielders? Other than that my second guess is that the tint and brightness controls on my tv are off. Have no idea. can you clarify?

pt 4 again from post 29:

So there was a bump up from 2006 to 2009.


Walt. I am not seeing any bump in the data here. this is the same table above, using obp/slug for balls in play. Yes? I do not see a bump or any trend upward. can you help here?

5)
Now explain why IF shifts affect HR/PA (or HR/AB) rates


My guess is they dont, but rather they effect doubles mainly. Why are you and CFB so focused on HRs?
this table from post 29:


2014 7.1% HR/FB (this does include LDs)
2013 7.5
2012 8.1
2011 7.3
2010 7.3
2009 7.8


again this is league wide data for HR/fly balls. My argument has to do with those hitters who are being selectively shifted against. This HR% stuff doesnt make that argument. you might be correct, but we need the data for those who are shifted against.

7)
Cuz I know what you're gonna say, batters are going the other way more to defeat the shift. Problem is, LHB are pulling the ball MORE than they used to. Despite a much lower IP%, 2013 saw the 2nd most "LHB pull" PAs of the 2000-14 period barely losing to 2004


not that I dont believe you, but can you give a link or a reference or at least some ball park number on this. I know you've done a lot of work on this. Just a minor follow up..

8)

Now it is true that "pull LHB" production is down substantially this year in both BA and SLG terms but it's still way more productive than not pulling the ball.


Having trouble parsing through this part, but just to ask: Walt do you think this could indicate the shift is working against LHB in particular?

9)
he might be arguing for the drop homeruns to be caused by shifts, but as you point out, homeruns on contact is still leaving at relatively the same rate and the real drop in homeruns is because of fewer balls hit into play.


Just to reiterate, I would put the emphasis more on doubles and triples, that's my guess. League-wide data on this stuff does not tell us what is going on with those being shifted against.

Okay that about covers it. Thanks for all the great info guys. really enjoyed reading through that. And have not really parsed it out all together.
   44. Sunday silence Posted: July 21, 2014 at 02:06 AM (#4754974)
to put in some perspective: shifts in 2010-11 may account for 1% of AB, 2012: 2%, 2013; almost 4%, 2014: 7.5%.

so these selected AB are probably too small to bump the meter in any direction, at least until maybe this year. So the scoring trends must be based on the strike zone as Walt says.

On the other hand: these data are so such a smaller subset that they could be trending in any direction and the league wide stats will not detect it.
   45. cardsfanboy Posted: July 21, 2014 at 02:10 AM (#4754975)
Let me see if I can say a few things which might help make me not appear to be as much of a luddite as Rob Wood seems to think I am.

I do not for a second think that proper use of spray charts or other data in regards to defensive positioning would not make a difference. Obviously good data mixed with good execution is going to be a plus. I'm just not confident that we are there yet(League wide that is) Especially when looking at the league wide data that is clearly indicating that it's not making much of a difference in the expected numbers that you would think it would.

I have also included a category where I subtracted strikeouts from the at bats to attempt to account for the difference in the strikeout drop.

Just to reiterate, I would put the emphasis more on doubles and triples, that's my guess. League-wide data on this stuff does not tell us what is going on with those being shifted against.



I have a list of double percentage and triple percentage and it fluctuates between 4.95% to 5.48% over the past 20 years...triples .46-.59%(with 2013 being the lowest of both) but again if you factor out strikeouts from the equation the difference is even less noticeable.

(Starting from 2014 to 1995)
-----   2b  2b/ab 2b/ab-k 3b  3b/ab 3b/ab-k
2014   5000 5.03
6.49%  518 0.520.67%
2013   8222 4.956.36%  772 0.460.60%
2012   8261 5.006.41%  927 0.560.72%
2011   8399 5.076.40%  898 0.540.68%
2010   8486 5.136.48%  866 0.520.66%
2009   8737 5.276.61%  949 0.570.72%
2008   9014 5.416.74%  886 0.530.66%
2007   9197 5.486.78%  938 0.560.69%
2006   9135 5.466.73%  952 0.570.70%
2005   8863 5.336.53%  888 0.530.65%
2004   8919 5.336.58%  898 0.540.66%
2003   8827 5.296.49%  934 0.560.69%
2002   8700 5.256.48%  921 0.560.69%
2001   8813 5.306.59%  928 0.560.69%
2000   8901 5.326.55%  952 0.570.70%
1999   8740 5.236.43%  931 0.560.68%
1998   8741 5.236.46%  899 0.540.66%
1997   8004 5.156.38%  883 0.570.70%
1996   7987 5.096.26%  855 0.550.67%
1995   6958 5.026.15%  824 0.590.73


Not really seeing a trend there outside of the increased strike out bump. 2013 was an aberration, but outside of that year, everything seems to be pretty similar.

   46. cardsfanboy Posted: July 21, 2014 at 02:14 AM (#4754977)
On the other hand: these data are so such a smaller subset that they could be trending in any direction and the league wide stats will not detect it.


This point I'll agree. I have not or have never argued that shifts don't work. I have simply argued that shifts aren't the reason for a decrease in offense. I've argued it hasn't made a macro difference.

There have been numerous articles that the shifts are hurting offense and even people have proposed banning shifts, and my point, as always has been, that they aren't big enough of a difference maker to care about.
   47. bjhanke Posted: July 21, 2014 at 03:38 AM (#4754983)
Some of this is anecdotal. I'm a lefty, and shifts, historically, have been employed more against lefties than righties; but I have no real power, and shifts have, historically, been applied against power hitters. However, I had the "Williams Shift", as it was called at the time, applied to me as early as high school gym class, because I'm normally an extreme pull hitter, and it has been used against me in every organized league I've ever played in. I beat it by slapping grounders down the 3B line or through the SS hole, depending on which hole the 3B was giving me (I actually am not a pull hitter; what I do have is bat control, and it's easier, at my level of play, to get a hit by hitting the ball at the RF, who is, at my level, almost always the worst defender on the field). This didn't really decrease my power, because those slapped grounders produced a lot of doubles, probably because most shifts involve moving the CF way towards RF, so some of the slappers I hit got past the LF, who had too much territory to cover.

However, when confronting the shift, even I have a macho reaction that, essentially, tells me to try to pull the ball more to prove that I am too good a hitter for a lousy shift to beat. Ted Williams' quotes about the shift are similar, except that he gave in to this (and suffered no known negative effect), while I never gave in to it. However, Williams was looking at a situation where hitting to the opposite field would strip him of a lot of homers, while his batting prowess was driven by homers and walks. My guess as to why LHB are pulling the ball more is that they, being MLB power hitters, embrace the macho a lot more than I ever did. What I would like to know is whether the HR rate to the opposite field has been decreasing. That would be an indicator. It's also true that, if you're trying to place a hit in a given direction, that takes concentration and mechanics away from power (which was probably why Williams would not do it). In other words, it's possible that the shift does decrease power by taking away opposite field homers, and inducing hitters to focus more on where they are aiming the ball than how hard and high they are launching it. I might also speculate that, at Ted Williams' level, he more ignored the shift than actively tried to conquer it. That would explain why his homer power did not drop. Most of us, confronting a shift, have to come up with a counter. That's baseball: an endless series of counters and counters to the counters. But, most of us are not Ted Williams.

It's my impression, based on simple studies, that the K rate in MLB has been increasing ever since the 1870s, in a sort of parabolic curve where the asymptote is 100% Ks, much like fielding percentage. Walks do not quite share the same history, although BB rates have certainly increased from the 1800s to now overall. It would make sense for K rates to increase at a higher rate then normal if batters were deliberately forcing themselves to try to pull against a shift. If you're trying to pull, that means you are trying to pull pitches that you would not have tried to pull before. A lot of such pitches are just plain unhittable for you, at least if you're trying to pull them, so your K rate should go up.

I also think that shifting is a subset of positioning, and actually wondered whether the guy who said the other just made a typo.

The "media visible" thing was, I think, meant to make the point that shifting is drawing a lot of media attention right now because TV cameras, now many in number and able to focus on odd things like where the 2B is setting up, have made the effects of shifting more visible. Just last night, I saw someone get thrown out on an obvious grounder through the hole in to RF, because the sift was on and the 2B was, essentially, playing short RF. That was VERY visible to the TV camera, and repeated several times during the broadcast. I might speculate that the current increase in shifting is a fad, and will tone itself down when the statistical results come in. Either that, or it's a discovery of some serious importance.

Another indicator that the shift is having an effect, and one that is not going to be media visible but should be sabermetrics visible, is the percentage of DPs where the SS is the pivot man. In a shift, the SS is the only infielder anywhere near 2B, so he's going to take more of the pivots, especially if the shift is working, so more grounders are going to the 2B. Anyone got data on that?

I'd also like to suggest that increasing the strike zone at the bottom will result in a drop in power. I still think the real reason that Barry Bonds hit 73 was that, in the offseason preceding 2001, the Lords announced publicly that they were going to make the umpires enforce the strike zone as it was written, which, at the time, meant that they were to add about 4-6 inches to the TOP of the zone. Looking at the replays of Barry's taters, there seem to be a LOT of them hit off high and inside stuff that he would never have swung at in 2000, because that pitch would not have been a strike then, and Barry, obviously independent of steroids, had tremendous strike zone judgment. Raising the K zone is going to increase homers; lowering it is going to reduce them. I'm pretty sure about that. Look at the K rates in the early 1950s, especially against the new pitchers who had made a fetish out of the high fastball in the strike zone (the Robin Roberts class of pitchers).

All this is, of course, just reasoning and indicators, which should tell you that my BA in "math" is really a fraud and the way I approach things is much more along the line of Applied (engineering) Math, where mathematical rigor is not possible. I use a lot of indicators when thinking about baseball, and a lot fewer formulas than most sabermetricians. I know about the difference between applied and theoretical math because I started out college thinking that I was going to be an engineer, and when my interest in that dried up, I had to switch to the A&S school and take a bunch of math courses to graduate with a major (Vanderbilt, at the time, did not have an Applied Math or AM & Computer Science major, or I would have taken that and never found out about rigor). So, I've studied at least as much applied math as theoretical math. Most sabermetricians are more weighted towards one discipline or the other. I'm pretty much split. - Brock Hanke
   48. Ron J2 Posted: July 21, 2014 at 11:01 AM (#4755086)
#8 ISO/bip has also been remarkably stable over the same time frame.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Kiko Sakata
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogMLB to tweak replay system, but managers’ challenges will stay | New York Post
(14 - 4:46pm, Nov 21)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogFemale Sportswriter Asks: 'Why Are All My Twitter Followers Men?' | ThinkProgress
(75 - 4:46pm, Nov 21)
Last: bigglou115

NewsblogOTP Politics November 2014: Mets Deny Bias in Ticket Official’s Firing
(4075 - 4:44pm, Nov 21)
Last: Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip

NewsblogExamining our assumptions about Pablo Sandoval
(29 - 4:41pm, Nov 21)
Last: AROM

NewsblogOT:  Soccer (the Round, True Football), November 2014
(362 - 4:31pm, Nov 21)
Last: Manny Coon

NewsblogOT - November 2014 College Football thread
(501 - 4:31pm, Nov 21)
Last: Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-21-2014
(33 - 4:23pm, Nov 21)
Last: The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy

NewsblogPablo Sandoval’s Brother: Red Sox Showed ‘First Class’ Attentiveness | Boston Red Sox | NESN.com
(9 - 4:21pm, Nov 21)
Last: Barry`s_Lazy_Boy

NewsblogRunning list of 2014 40-man roster additions | MiLB.com News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball
(35 - 4:20pm, Nov 21)
Last: The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy

NewsblogDodgers Acquire Joel Peralta – MLB Trade Rumors
(28 - 4:16pm, Nov 21)
Last: pthomas

NewsblogReds at least considering trading big names, reducing payroll | FOX Sports
(6 - 3:21pm, Nov 21)
Last: Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige

NewsblogMLB Transaction Trees «
(21 - 2:22pm, Nov 21)
Last: Matt Welch

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 2014 Ballot
(8 - 2:21pm, Nov 21)
Last: DL from MN

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 2014 Discussion
(32 - 2:04pm, Nov 21)
Last: Infinite Joost (Voxter)

NewsblogSwitch-pitcher Pat Venditte is ready to take a major step. | SportsonEarth.com : Howard Megdal Article
(28 - 1:26pm, Nov 21)
Last: PreservedFish

Page rendered in 0.8183 seconds
52 querie(s) executed