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Defensive Shifts Newsbeat

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Royals Try a New Shift

One thing I absolutely didn’t expect: a five-man infield against Joey Gallo. The Royals had other plans, however. They pinched in their right fielder and rotated the rest of the outfield to compensate for it against him in his first at-bat of the season. The result was amusing, particularly if you’re a fan of the best laid plans going awry:....

Now, we can put everything together. On grounders, the Royals’ unconventional shift saves them 3.8 runs per 100 batted balls. On balls in the air, it costs them a combined 3.4 runs per 100 batted balls. That’s close enough that we should apply the tiebreaker, which is in favor of shifting. In other words, bringing in their right fielder against Gallo saved the Royals a tiny part of a run, at least per my calculations. We’re doing math in per-100-batted ball increments, but if you want to think in terms of plate appearances, my math says that the Royals save roughly 0.2 runs per 100 PAs. That’s the equivalent of roughly two points of wOBA, not exactly a huge savings.

In the end, perhaps the Royals’ shift is much ado about nothing. Or perhaps my analysis is wrong; I had to make a lot of assumptions to come to a conclusion, and some of them are closer to guesswork than scientific knowledge. I’m most surprised by how narrow the gap between the two options appears to be; it’s close to being a pure toss-up. That’s only the case because Gallo is so extreme of a hitter, though.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 11, 2023 at 05:56 PM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: defensive shifts, royals

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Shift is dead in MLB. But is the ‘two-man outfield’ next? And will it work? [$]

The Athletic sub required.

Defensive innovation in virtually all sports is a risk-and-reward game. But do the rewards of the two-man outfield ever justify the inside-the-park-homer risk? In reality, not very often. But what we’re about to find out this season is whether the actual answer is:

Not never.

“I think it’s always a balance of what you’re willing to give up and what you’re trying to accomplish,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “You’re trying to change an immeasurable. You’re trying to change (the hitter’s) approach, which we can’t measure. Because the risk of a triple down the left-field line, that’s real. And that’s a run. That leads to a run, which is super valuable.”

Hinch isn’t announcing publicly whether his team will use the two-man outfield against Gallo or anyone else. But he’s the first to acknowledge that when he managed the Astros, no team shifted more against Gallo than his team.

“But we didn’t leave a place in the outfield open,” Hinch said. “We used a four-man outfield. So yes, we had a bunch of people over on the right side, and I left the infield open at third and short. But I never left an entire half of the field open. And that’s the risk. If you’re willing to do that, which I saw that Boston was, it’s cost analysis. And I get the cost.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 23, 2023 at 08:19 AM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: defensive shifts

Friday, February 17, 2023

An inside look at how the new rules will work

A bit more detail than we’ve seen before on these rules.

The basics: To create a crisper pace of play, there will be a 30-second timer between batters and then a 15-second timer between each pitch with the bases empty and a 20-second timer between each pitch with runners on base.

The pitcher must go into his motion prior to the expiration of the timer or else be charged with an automatic ball. The pitcher is allotted two “disengagements” (a step-off or a pickoff attempt) without penalty. A third disengagement will be ruled a balk, unless an out is recorded on the bases (i.e., a successful pickoff attempt).

The batter must be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark on the timer or else be charged with an automatic strike.

The pitch timer reduced the average game time in the Minor Leagues last year by 25 minutes, and the limit on pickoff attempts led to a 26 percent increase in stolen-base attempts. While it’s too early to say if those exact numbers will translate at the Major League level, it’s fair to expect a noticeable reduction in the length of games and increase in steal attempts.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 17, 2023 at 12:11 PM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: defensive shifts, pitch clock

Monday, January 23, 2023

Second basemen have been the face of an evolving game. Will MLB’s infield shift limits transform the position again?

In the meantime, younger players with stellar bats and questionable fielding range emerged into full-time roles either as starting second basemen or utility types with frequent stops there, Brandon Lowe and Luis Arraez among them. Arraez, whom the Minnesota Twins traded to the Miami Marlins on Friday, could well be changing teams because his limited fielding abilities no longer fit as well on the Twins with Carlos Correa, Jorge Polanco and prospect Royce Lewis all locked into or jockeying for playing time.

The result, combined with MLB’s growing preference for defensive flexibility, is an upward trend of better-than-average hitters who play at least some second base.

Recently, though, the gap between second basemen and the average MLB hitter has been shrinking….

With infielders required to start each pitch on the dirt and the extreme shift that brought the shortstop across second now banned, second basemen will undeniably have more ground to cover.

Teams employing second basemen whom they’ve papered over defensively will now face the challenge of either shuffling their roster to move those players off second base or locating the best way to cover for them within the new rules. Take the Rays and Lowe. They have a stockpile of middle infielders, most of whom are vastly better defenders than Lowe, but they could really use the thump in his bat and that of a DH in the lineup after finishing 25th in MLB in slugging last year. The Dodgers, on the other hand, could try to use their roster to keep Muncy away from second even more.

At first blush, it would seem that the offense emanating from second basemen, long on the rise, is about to take a tumble. But the ultimate fate of the trendlines isn’t destiny. It’s a product of choices.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 23, 2023 at 10:25 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: defensive shifts



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