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Defensive Shifts Newsbeat

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

No, MLB Teams Aren’t Stupid By Shifting

Yes, Gurriel hit a ball that was a hit because of the shift. That’s understandable. Infield shifts will never be perfect. They take away some hits by putting infielders into traditional unconventional places but also give some back with the same type of positioning.

But because anti-shifters want to have shifts disproven, they are prone to choice-supportive bias. They remember the times that the shift harmed their team and quickly discard the times where the shift helped nab an unexpected out.

Just a day before, the Braves recorded three outs in the ninth inning, all on ground balls that were at least turned into easier outs because of the shift. It could be argued that all three could have ended up as hits without the shift.

That’s been the story early on this series and what goes on throughout baseball. There have been plenty of balls hit right into the teeth of the shifts, and there have also been balls hit away from the shift that has pitchers turning cartwheels.

There have been countless studies that show the efficacy of shifting. I’m not going to roll out another list of stats to try to prove something that has largely been proven.

I’m just going to use an even simpler form of logic to argue that all these MLB teams aren’t stupid by shifting. The proof is that we can assume that all 30 MLB teams aren’t collectively stupid.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 02, 2021 at 04:05 PM | 27 comment(s)
  Beats: defensive shifts

Thursday, October 21, 2021

MLB Just Tried a Bunch of Experimental Rules in the Minors. How Well Did They Work?

No experimental rule generated more trepidation this year than the Atlantic League’s MLB-driven decision to move the mound back by a foot from the strangely sacrosanct distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. There were real reasons to think this change would reduce strikeouts and that the decision was long overdue: It’s worked at various points in the past, in the majors and elsewhere, and pitchers are much bigger and harder-throwing than they were when the current pitching distance was set in 1893. There were also some suggestions that pitchers might benefit from increased pitch movement over a farther flight. Finally, there were fears that the change in distance would cause a spike in injuries, a concern that scuttled a plan to push the mound back by two feet in the Atlantic League in 2019, and nearly incited a revolt this season in the lead-up to the move on August 3.

“Initially, obviously, there was some negative reaction, just because it was a change and a change that some people viewed as kind of fundamental to the game,” Martinez says. “I would say the overall opinion after a little while with it was that it didn’t make a huge difference. You really didn’t hear a lot of grumbling, and most of the players and staff that we’ve been talking to have said that after a series or two, nobody even really talked about it anymore. I think it was a lot less disruptive than maybe people thought it was going to be. … Hitters said that timing was essentially the same.”

Stem backs up Martinez’s take, describing the mound move as “not a huge deal at all.” The veteran righty adds, “That’s the one that everybody was freaking out about, and once it was done, and after that first week when everybody quit talking about it, it was completely unnoticeable.” No pitch type’s usage rate shifted up or down by even 1.5 percentage points, and the average four-seamer release speed budged only slightly, increasing by about a quarter of a mile per hour.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:06 PM | 96 comment(s)
  Beats: defensive shifts, mound distance, pitch clocks, robo ump

Monday, October 18, 2021

Arizona Fall League experiments gone awry, plus notes on Spencer Torkelson, Brett Baty and more: Keith Law

Sub required.

Major League Baseball’s plans to test out various ideas for speeding up games in the Arizona Fall League this year have been, through a week of games, a complete flop.

The Saturday night game at Salt River Fields, the spring home of the Diamondbacks and Rockies, exemplifies the entire problem. The game used the automated strike zone, a variable pitch clock and a ban on shifts. The result was a game that was called after seven and a half innings over three excruciating hours because the teams ran out of pitchers. Why did they run out of pitchers in just seven and a half innings, you ask? Because the pitchers they did use walked 22 guys.

I’m an advocate of moving away from a human-called strike zone, which is going to be biased by its very nature, to an automated one, but this year’s experiments in what was once the Florida State League, and now here in the AFL, have shown that simply turning on HAL 2021 isn’t going to be enough. It turns out that the real strike zone is a lot smaller than what umpires called, especially on the horizontal axis (inside or outside). A whole lot of pitches that were probably 1 to 3 inches off the outside corner and had some chance of being called strikes from a human were, of course, called balls — and while that wasn’t solely responsible for the game’s three-walks-per-inning pace, it didn’t help matters. (Some guys just couldn’t find the plate that night if you’d drawn an arrow from the mound right to the dish.)


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 18, 2021 at 10:47 AM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: defensive shifts, pace of play, pitch clock, robot umpires



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