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Shifts Newsbeat

Friday, April 30, 2021

Matt Chapman and the Potential Demise of the Up-the-Middle Hit

This — or something similar — has happened to Chapman on a few different occasions in 2021, but his lack of up-the-middle base hits is not the primary reason why he’s struggling; his overall expected batting average on these events is just .209. Those additional 2.5 hits that Chapman should have expected wouldn’t raise his line back to productivity. There are other issues there. But what’s happening to Chapman so far this season is emblematic of a league-wide trend: The up-the-middle base hit is slowly disappearing thanks to much more pinpointed defensive positioning….

That drop at the end? That’s April 2021. Batters are hitting just .236 on groundballs up the middle so far this year, their worst performance in any month over the last 10 years, and not by a slim margin: The second-lowest, July 2020, was 11 points higher, at .247. That is quite the single-month drop-off, even despite the rather noisy trend overall. If you want more proof of a trend over time, though, consider the batting average on up-the-middle groundballs with no runners on base, when teams are far more likely to shift:

There’s quite the steep fall at the end. Indeed, in August 2018, hitters still posted an average above .300 in these types of situations, but haven’t hit better than .283 in any of the 11 months since. This is not the longest sub-.300 streak within this short dataset; in fact, the first 14 months of these data didn’t have any above-.300 marks. But even within that stretch there are multiple .290s, and before that, the longest stretch hitters experienced with results this poor was just five months, from April to August 2015. All of this is to say that these types of groundball hits are slowly disappearing. But while the rate at which they are falling may only be increasing, it’s too soon to draw firm conclusions on that until we have more data.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 30, 2021 at 09:42 AM | 33 comment(s)
  Beats: shifts

Sunday, February 07, 2021

The Psychology of the Infield Shift

I wanted to investigate the decision-making that pitchers and hitters are making when there is a shift on and when there is not, focusing on pitch location from pitchers and location-based swing rate from hitters. It analyses these to see if there is anything different occurring.

Pitch level info for shifting exists in the Statcast dataset from just 2015 onward. I used that data to investigate the following three things for each season since 2015.

Outcome of all at-bats, not just balls in play
Swing rate of hitters – split by attack zones
Pitch location for pitchers – split by attack zones
To investigate this, I have split the data into four separate sets based on the handedness of the pitcher and the hitter. And for each of these sets look at the impact of a standard (full) shift and a strategic (partial) shift.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 07, 2021 at 12:43 PM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: shifts



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