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Shifts Newsbeat

Monday, September 06, 2021

The Righty Shift Has Petered Out

This season, we’ve reached a point of stagnation. Teams haven’t budged from the mark they set against lefty hitters in 2020. Moreover, after a steady year-to-year increase, the rate of shifts against righty hitters has actually dropped. What I find more interesting — and ultimately want to dissect — is the latter trend. That teams aren’t looking for new lefties to shift against makes sense, since there’s presumably a limited pool. But righties demonstrate pull-side tendencies, too. If we assume teams are shifting mainly based on pull rates, we’d also expect the number of shifts against righties to keep climbing.

Each team has its own philosophies and internal metrics, so it’s worth noting there may never be a consensus on infield shifts. In the same division no less, the Padres occupy one end of the spectrum and the Dodgers the other. With that in mind, which teams have become more conservative against righties? And which teams are bucking the overall trend?...

What have we learned from this? Nothing revelatory, but we do have a sense of where the league is as a whole. As it stands, most shifts against right-handed hitters come from a fervent minority; otherwise, teams are shying away from them or, like the Padres, never bought into the idea in the first place. I thought the numbers would keep climbing from the looks of previous years, but apparently not. Maybe teams have considered public research. Maybe they’ve come to their own conclusions. Either way, that a justification exists for shifting righties en masse is becoming less likely.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 12:28 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: shifts

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

What MLB players would change about their sport

Does the game need fixing?
Yes: 4
No: 16

When asked more generally, players were hesitant to find problems with a game that has given them so much. Many believe it needs tweaking but isn’t necessarily broken, as some of the harsher critics of baseball have suggested over time.

And of those who do have issues, many find them off the field rather than on it.

Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds outfielder: “I feel like we’re always trying to fix the game [on the field], but I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We have a beautiful game. I grew up enjoying the game because of the way it is.”

Andrew Miller, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher: “We think the [financial] system is outdated and it needs to be adjusted to account for young players taking up more significant parts of the roster. Competition from all 30 teams will fix a lot of what’s going on in the markets. If everyone is trying to win, the free-agent market will certainly be better for players.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 25, 2021 at 11:27 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: pace of play, shifts

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



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