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Monday, February 21, 2022

Stark: What would happen if baseball killed the shift?

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He makes a great point. What the game seems to need is more DJ LeMahieus, whose specialty is the ability to control at-bats and put the ball in play. The trouble, this club official said, is: “You don’t incentivize that by limiting shifts.”

Instead, he went on, the hitters who benefit most are “the hitters you least want to see in the game” — those pull-happy left-handed hitters whose goal in life has nothing to do with slapping singles through a less crowded right side of the infield. On their road to 30 bombs and 175 strikeouts, they have no motivation to level their swing. Why would that change?

THAT SAME CLUB OFFICIAL: “We can either create rule changes to incentivize players to play the game slightly differently, or we can create rule changes that incentivize teams to build their teams differently. If you want more high-contact punch-and-judy types, you don’t incentivize that by limiting shifts. The singles hitter who shoots the ball the other way is not helped by this. I know left-handed hitters are frustrated by the shift. But in terms of how you incentivize competition, I do struggle with that. Banning the shift is not going to take the ball out of the air.”

So that rule that keeps those pesky, hit-eating infielders out of the outfield — that’s the only one that clearly does what it’s intended to do. But if Rob Manfred still has illusions of “restoring” the single up the middle, simply putting two infielders on each side of second base won’t do that, not if the shortstop or second baseman can still stand practically behind the bag.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2022 at 09:26 AM | 98 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: shifts

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   1. Jack Sommers Posted: February 21, 2022 at 10:17 AM (#6065626)
What about limiting the number of times a manager can shift per game....and the number of times the same hitter can be shifted on ?

Say for example a manager can employ the shift 5 times in a game, and no more than 1 time on any hitter....

Make it strategic, and with partial limitation you avoid having massive unintended consequences. Then you can tweak it as you go into the following season(s) when you have more data.

   2. Obo Posted: February 21, 2022 at 10:47 AM (#6065631)
Agree 100% with the excerpt. The shift is a force for good in the game and I've never understood why any baseball fan would want to get rid of it.
   3. Bret Sabermatrician Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:05 AM (#6065636)
I like the shift in theory because it "should" force hitters to be more well rounded, but that clearly hasn't been the outcome. If anything, it's only made them swing harder for the fences to get over the shift.

I guess forcing them into the diamond will help, but I think a smart team could get around it with creative outfield positioning
   4. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:07 AM (#6065637)
For 150 years fans and writers boasted that baseball was full of complicated strategy. The bunt was viewed on the same level as splitting the atom. Only truly deep thinkers could understand its mystique and power. Cal Ripken was lauded as an absolute genius for standing in slightly different spots while defending.

We finally reach the point at which we are performing true strategy by stationing defenders where the ball is expected, and most people whine and complain.

They've also been saying "hit 'em where they ain't" for 130 years, but apparently that strategy no longer exists.

   5. I Am Not a Number Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:36 AM (#6065642)
We finally reach the point at which we are performing true strategy by stationing defenders where the ball is expected, and most people whine and complain.

Yes, and the reaction to something that makes total sense is "no fair, you're standing where I want to hit the ball!" What's next? "No fair, I can't hit curve balls. No fair, those pitches are too fast."
   6. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:50 AM (#6065644)
I know left-handed hitters are frustrated by the shift.
For more than a century, lefties had the platoon advantage for ~ two-thirds of their plate appearances. Even with shifts, their place in the batters box is 2 steps closer to 1st base. They need to stop whining and learn to go the other way.
   7. dejarouehg Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:52 AM (#6065645)
I'm fully in favor of banning the shift, but short of that, I think some concept of what #1 suggested is a decent compromise.

The game has become less and less entertaining and the shift is a big contributor to it.

And, (here's a reason no one on this site will probably like,) the aesthetics of the game were much more enjoyable with the conventional defense. It feels like (not saying it is, but it FEELS like) there were more great defensive plays when conventional defense was played.

   8. Obo Posted: February 21, 2022 at 12:02 PM (#6065646)
The game has become less and less entertaining and the shift is a big contributor to it.

But why would you conclude that the shift is contributing to the problem? The shift rewards players who can counter it, i.e. players who have bat control and can put the ball in play the other way. Those are the players you want to bring back and the shift raises their value relative to the dead-pull sluggers.

The fact that the shift alone can't counter the relatively dull game we see today doesn't mean that it isn't part of the solution.
   9. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 21, 2022 at 12:03 PM (#6065647)
Can I ask a more global question about this topic?

Defensive shifts are effective. How much of the "blame pie" goes to the following:

1) Batters just have relatively little control over exactly where the ball goes, always has been the case, and as long as pitchers can generally locate the ball correctly (inner/outer half of the plate), there's just not a lot even good hitters can do about the direction the ball goes.

2) Batters actually could control where the ball goes more than they currently can, except that the combination of increased velocity (not enough time to make an adjustment on a pitch) and diversity of pitchers seen in a game (pitcher usage patterns) have now made it extremely difficult for batters to "hit it where they ain't". Maybe Wee Willie Keeler could do it back in the day, but he couldn't do it now!

3) Batters probably could do it a fair amount more than they currently do, but they are afraid it will mess up their swing and approach. It is simply too risky for a generally risk-averse population (hitters). There may also be a little ego involved for some batters (I'm not going to let them tell me I can't hit it to right center!)

4) Batters genuinely think they have a better chance of getting a hit by simply hitting through/over the shift than they do trying to hit it against the shift. It's not an ego thing, or even a fear of messing up their swing - it is more of a calculated decision of how they can best get on base.

Personally, I think this is the order of explanation. It is something like:

60% #1
25% #2
10% #3
5% #4

Basically, it is really hard to hit a baseball; it is extremely hard to hit a baseball exactly where you want; and it is harder to do that now than ever before.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: February 21, 2022 at 12:18 PM (#6065649)
They've also been saying "hit 'em where they ain't" for 130 years, but apparently that strategy no longer exists.


Yes, and the reaction to something that makes total sense is "no fair, you're standing where I want to hit the ball!" What's next? "No fair, I can't hit curve balls. No fair, those pitches are too fast."

As some poster here put it way back when about banning the shift, that's "Make them ain't where I want to hit 'em."


60% #1
25% #2
10% #3
5% #4


I don't believe that at all. Righthanded batters have succeeded at hitting the ball to the right side of the infield with a runner on second and nobody out forever (a strategy of far more dubious merit than hitting to the left side with no one playing there). I think 3 and 4 are far more likely explanations.
   11. Obo Posted: February 21, 2022 at 12:25 PM (#6065652)
I'd add

5) Chicks dig the long ball. Regardless of whether anyone in the game thinks that swinging for the fences is the best strategy, the fans want dingers and, related but not quite the same thing, the hitters believe that dingers is what gets you paid.
   12. Brian White Posted: February 21, 2022 at 12:37 PM (#6065654)
The analytics revolution has lead to three simultaneous trends in baseball:

1) Strikeouts are good for pitchers, and taking more time between pitches allows for higher exertion, so pitchers take way more time to deliver the ball
2) Walks and dingers are good, so hitters are a bit more selective and try to hit hard fly balls with every swing
3) You should position your defenders where hitters like to hit the ball

I suspect when people complain about baseball being unwatchable, they are mainly complaining about the first two, but the shift gets a lot of collateral damage since its rise is correlated with 1 and 2. The launch angle idea encourages teams to produce Joey Gallo clones, while the shift actually discourages production of Joey Gallos - Gallo is consistently among league leaders in hits taken away by the shift. Overall, launch angle is probably more important than defensive shifts to hitting, which is why TTO marches on. But as the excerpt notes, banning the shift would probably accelerate the Gallo-ization of baseball, and that would be a pretty tragic outcome.
   13. Eddo Posted: February 21, 2022 at 12:52 PM (#6065655)
I suspect when people complain about baseball being unwatchable, they are mainly complaining about the first two, but the shift gets a lot of collateral damage since its rise is correlated with 1 and 2.

I'd say it's more because, among those 3 reasons, it's the most noticeable in the moment. Launch angle has been gradually increasing, and you can't really tell on a swing-by-swing basis that hitters are focusing on it more. And an individual pitcher taking a few more seconds isn't as obvious as the whole infield shifting. (And slow pitchers get plenty of criticism, too.)
   14. Astroenteritis Posted: February 21, 2022 at 12:53 PM (#6065656)
Agree with #2 wholeheartedly. The defense should be allowed to position fielders in any configuration they desire. The pitcher and catcher can't move around too much, but the other seven fielders should allowed to position themselves in the positions that will most limit runs allowed.
   15. Sleepy was just “inspecting the bunker”, y’all Posted: February 21, 2022 at 01:09 PM (#6065659)
I agree with #2, but the second half of #7 does make some sense. For something like 40 years I was conditioned to see a sharply ball hit to the right side from the center field camera and my brain’s dopamine centers would be rewarded with a “hit”. Now a decent percentage of the time, it’s not a hit. It’s like ringing a bell and not giving a treat. Boo!

On the opposite side of that, there’s no great defensive play either. It’s just some dude in short right field tossing the ball to first base.

In the grand scheme of things it’s trivial, but there’s a dissonance between what my mind thinks “should be” and what is, and it’s painful.

It’s really not the case when watching at the game. I think the solution is for the camera crews and broadcasters to do a better job of showing the field and talking about positioning, etc. and more bunting/slap hits to the opposite field, although I’m sure that’s harder to do than it sounds.
   16. DFA Posted: February 21, 2022 at 02:14 PM (#6065670)
I wonder what a Venn Diagram of fans who hate the shift and fans who hate the strikeout would look like.

From playing rec ball back in the first grade, the mantra has always been to hit the ball hard. I think arbitrarily banning the shift is short sighted. Should outfielders not be able to shade one way or the other? Should first baseman have to be on the bag to hold a runner on? At what point are we just tilting at windmills?

Let them play.
   17. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: February 21, 2022 at 02:19 PM (#6065671)
And, (here's a reason no one on this site will probably like,) the aesthetics of the game were much more enjoyable with the conventional defense. It feels like (not saying it is, but it FEELS like) there were more great defensive plays when conventional defense was played.

One reason it feels that way is that the number of balls in play was higher in the past. More balls in play gives you more chances for exciting defensive plays.
   18. LargeBill Posted: February 21, 2022 at 02:56 PM (#6065676)
The rules mandate where two defensive players (pitcher and catcher) must be at the start of every play, the only requirement for the other seven players is that they be in fair territory. You could put all seven in right field and give up lots of hits. Or a manager could divide up the acreage fairly evenly. The shift is somewhere in between those two ideas. No matter where the manager stations his defense, the amount of land to cover remains unchanged. I don't think those basic rules need to be changed. If batters don't like the shift, they need to beat it frequently enough that it is no longer considered a viable strategy. Imagine if a power hitter who is capable of hitting 30 home runs (with a .220 BA) can bat .750 if he bunts every time they leave the left side unattended. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments.
   19. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 21, 2022 at 03:22 PM (#6065677)
Maybe some blame belongs to coaches. If they'd just give the Gallos of the world the bunt sign you wouldn't have to worry about his comfort in going the other way.
   20. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 21, 2022 at 03:35 PM (#6065678)
another issue that I dont think has been mentioned:

what about when a fly ball sacrifice can win the game? The OFers move in quite close. And sometimes the infielders shift a bit as well. is that play gonna be illegal if we ban the shift?
   21. sotapop Posted: February 21, 2022 at 03:39 PM (#6065681)
The shift isn't the real problem. Pretty sure most/all of us agree that baseball is a better game when the ball is put in play and fielders need to run, catch and throw, sometimes in relays, to get someone out.

So for my money, first take steps to cut down on strikeouts and, yes, home runs. (What movie was it where someone called them boring and fascist?) Take care of that and then the shift's not such a big deal.
   22. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 21, 2022 at 03:52 PM (#6065685)
+1
   23. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 21, 2022 at 04:17 PM (#6065687)
1) Strikeouts are good for pitchers, and taking more time between pitches allows for higher exertion, so pitchers take way more time to deliver the ball


Its the 2nd and 3rd part of this sentence that is the key. If you keep the batter in the box and make pitchers throw the ball within 10-12 seconds, the game totally changes. Not only faster, but you eliminate the ready....set....play boredom you get in gridiron. Pitchers and hitters alike are then always a little uncomfortable, not totally set, not totally dedicated to the rearing back and swinging for the fences or pitching it as hard as you can on each.individual.pitch.

I really don't think any drastic changes are needed to improve the game for the fan. Just speed it up, just adhere to the existing rule book or even tweak it so there's less time(less then what the rule book says now) for everyone between pitches.
   24. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2022 at 04:39 PM (#6065688)


So for my money, first take steps to cut down on strikeouts and, yes, home runs. (What movie was it where someone called them boring and fascist?) Take care of that and then the shift's not such a big deal.


Yea, its pretty clear when you look at BA compared to BABIP over the years. BA has gone from .270 in 2000 to .244 last year. BABIP went from .300 to .292. And K% has gone up from 16.5% to 23.2%.

   25. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: February 21, 2022 at 05:10 PM (#6065690)
If you keep the batter in the box and make pitchers throw the ball within 10-12 seconds, the game totally changes.

100% agree. That is the key to the whole thing.


   26. Tony S Posted: February 21, 2022 at 05:31 PM (#6065691)
Penalty flags are the BEST thing about the NFL! Let's bring them into baseball!

"We have an illegal formation...on the defense..."
   27. TJ Posted: February 21, 2022 at 07:35 PM (#6065696)
I used to be vehemently anti-shift until I came to the conclusion that the shift isn’t an action, but instead is a reaction to what baseball has become. The shift did not gain popularity until hitters fully embraced TTO. The way to get rid of shirts is not by rule, but by addressing the true problem of offense today relying on walks and home runs to generate runs. My two suggestions:

1. Deaden the ball to the point where it would take an optimal launch angle and an exit velocity somewhere north of 100 mph to hit one out. The technology exists to measure these things, so I would think it could be applied to how the baseballs are made.

2. Limit teams to four pitchers per nine innings. If your starter goes a strong six innings, trot out your flame throwing 7,8, and 9th inning guys for the win. If your starter struggles or one of your relievers is shaky, then teams will need to have the other relievers go more than one inning, thus pitchers having to think more about pacing themselves.

Make it harder to hit homers and to throw the ball past hitters and you will get rid of the shift.
   28. Lassus Posted: February 21, 2022 at 07:39 PM (#6065698)
Ted Williams is gonna get a lot more hits.

Obo is correct. Banning the shift is like moving in HR fences, but like 10 times worse.
   29. Adam Starblind Posted: February 21, 2022 at 08:15 PM (#6065700)
I think I’m anti shift and anti banning the shift. Is that OK?
   30. Brian White Posted: February 21, 2022 at 08:15 PM (#6065701)
what about when a fly ball sacrifice can win the game? The OFers move in quite close. And sometimes the infielders shift a bit as well. is that play gonna be illegal if we ban the shift?


This gives me the excuse to link to one of my favorite shifts of all time by the Dodgers, in a situation where a sac fly would win the game. It featured FOUR infielders between first and second base. And it worked. It was absolutely beautiful, and I hate that (some of) the powers that be want to take that away from the game.
   31. Jack Sommers Posted: February 21, 2022 at 08:53 PM (#6065702)
Per Statcast data, while batting avg and Babip are lower, Slugging and overall wOBA are higher when teams are in the shift.

And the increase in Slug and wOBA are not small. Sorry for the alignment fail once again but I think you guys will figure it out.

Bottom line is while BABIP / BA clearly lower when shift is on, the batters have taken Ted Williams attitude to heart and said eff it, just gonna hit it over the shift. If one believes that wOBA is a good enough representation of overall batting productivity, then it's clearly been the correct strategy.



YEAR ST BABIP SH BABIP ST BA SH BA ST SLUG SH SLUG ST wOBA SH wOBA
2015 .300 .283 .254 .247 .398 .443 .310 .333
2016 .301 .286 .255 .250 .410 .452 .314 .337
2017 .302 .278 .256 .246 .421 .466 .319 .341
2018 .299 .276 .250 .238 .406 .426 .313 .325
2019 .302 .287 .254 .250 .427 .462 .315 .335
2020 .300 .272 .250 .233 .412 .428 .317 .324
2021 .297 .281 .247 .239 .404 .430 .311 .325






   32. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 21, 2022 at 09:02 PM (#6065703)
Per Statcast data, while batting avg and Babip are lower, Slugging and overall wOBA are higher when teams are in the shift.

Is this controlled for hitter quality? Because that seems likely to make a difference.
   33. Ron J Posted: February 21, 2022 at 09:45 PM (#6065705)
.       ST    SH         ST    SH       ST    SH        ST    SH
YEAR  BABIP  BABIP       BA    BA      SLUG  SLUG      wOBA  wOBA
2015  .300   .283      .254  .247      .398  .443      .310  .333
2016  .301   .286      .255  .250      .410  .452      .314  .337
2017  .302   .278      .256  .246      .421  .466      .319  .341
2018  .299   .276      .250  .238      .406  .426      .313  .325
2019  .302   .287      .254  .250      .427  .462      .315  .335
2020  .300   .272      .250  .233      .412  .428      .317  .324
2021  .297   .281      .247  .239      .404  .430      .311  .325 


Thanks Jack. Hopefully that's easier to read.
   34. Ron J Posted: February 21, 2022 at 09:53 PM (#6065706)
#32 Obviously not. It's raw numbers.
   35. John Northey Posted: February 21, 2022 at 09:58 PM (#6065707)
I find it funny when people say hitters can't control where the ball goes. The best always have. You just need to cut back a bit on the swing to do it. Back in the 80's/90's Tony Fernandez was excellent at it. As were many other singles hitters (Tony Gwynn for example). What we need in baseball is something to cut back on the incentive to grip it and rip it. Allowing the shift does encourage the change we want somewhat, but much stronger changes are needed. A lower strike zone might help (have it be a strike mid way between your knees and the ground then try to hit that out of the park), as might a deader ball (a change no one would see except on the scoreboard). Find one that makes current 400' HR's into 380' fly outs and you'd see a lot of players change their methods quickly.
   36. Moeball Posted: February 21, 2022 at 10:57 PM (#6065709)
Some thoughts on the shift and 2 of the most famous batters it was used against:

1) BITD I saw the Padres use the shift a zillion times against Barry Bonds. Now, to make a left handed batter hit it to the right side, you have to be willing to pitch on the inside part of the plate. Problem is, if you throw fastballs on the inside part of the plate to Bonds, he's likely to put that pitch in the right field bleachers, which kind of defeats the purpose of the shift. As you know, the Padres were Barry's favorite punching bag in his career, so there were many times the strategy backfired. And if you pitch Bonds away to keep him from pulling fastballs inside for home runs to right field, he'll just take the walk. All in all, not a very successful strategy.

2) According to interviews with Ted Williams, he admitted he finally started beating the shift in 1957 totally by accident. He had started using a slightly heavier bat in spring training that year, claiming he thought it gave a little extra power to his fly balls. The homers hit that spring seemed to be carrying a bit further according to Ted. An unintended consequence was that the heavier bat was also sometimes resulting in swings a split second later than usual, and fastballs that Ted used to pull to right field were now being hit the other way. For the first time in his career he was starting to hit more opposite field homers, and even balls that didn't make it over the fence were falling into an undefended left field. So when the Sox came North after spring training, Ted kept using the heavier bat on into the season.
   37. The Duke Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:15 PM (#6065714)
I hate the shift - it ruins the symmetry of the game and basically takes away great defensive plays in two ways: 1) the math does allow you to set up right where the ball will be hit so less range is required and 2)third basemen in particular are playing out of position which means you don’t get many great plays down the line anymore

The solution is two guys on either side of the bag and to address the execs complaints about those guys still playing up the middle, draw a white line 15 ft on either side of second base and force the SS and 2B to set up on the foul line side of that line (except when a runner is on 2nd base ). This is the NHL concept of not letting the goalie play the puck in the corners in the NHL. They have lines like that behind the net that work really well.

The MLB needs a “fun” committee focused on rules changes that will make the live experience more fun.
   38. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:24 PM (#6065715)
#32 Obviously not. It's raw numbers.

Then I'm not sure why we're discussing it as though it's inherently meaningful. It looks more like a reflection of which hitters are shifted on than an indicator of the efficacy of the shift itself.
   39. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:54 PM (#6065717)
Duke, the shift (mostly) goes away as soon as players start hitting the other way. It's just that lots of left-handed pull hitters don't seem to have figured that out. Hence my comment above about how coaches should just put down the bunt sign more often. It's always been legal, there's no need to change the game; if they just played it smarter it would mostly go back to what you like.

Using Tango's chart and eye-balling MLB runs per game from ESPN team pages, it looks like the run value of a single is around .45, and the run value of a home run is about 1.4. Looks like an out is worth about -.25 or so.

Since a bunt to an un-defended left side is an almost guaranteed single (unless you REALLY suck at it and the catcher fields the ball), the run expectancy for bunting against the shift is, on average, about .45. Since this is all rough anyway, I'm going to say home runs are worth 3x singles. If outs were worth zero runs, you'd need to be confident that you can get a hit at least one of out three times that you hit into the shift, if hitting into the shift was rational. But since outs have negative value, you've got to be more successful than that. You'd need to get a hit something like 40% of the time. And that's assuming that every hit that goes to the pull side is a home run, so you would actually need to be far more successful than 40% of the time.

I think that's right, but I'm tired, and just eye-balling this anyway, so maybe it's not. In any case (and this is the important part), if they're shifting on you, you've got to be really damn sure that you're going to get a hit by going against the shift, rather than just dropping down a bunt. A batter's job (this was probably James' most important insight) is to not get out.
   40. Ron J Posted: February 21, 2022 at 11:59 PM (#6065718)
#38 Of course you adjust everything else. Or to put it another way, anything that doesn't support your preconceived notions can be dismissed.
   41. Walt Davis Posted: February 22, 2022 at 12:20 AM (#6065719)
Fly ball hitters have lower BAs and BABIPs. High-K hitters have lower BAs. Fly ball hitters have higher ISOs and probably higher SLGs. If TTO players (or just K/FB hitters) are the ones shifted against most, then we would expect the shift to "result" in lower BA and BABIP, higher ISO and SLG. wOBA is up in the air. (I'm not sure how Ks and BBs are being counted or not in those numbers.)

Mainly, hitting GBs has never been a good way to score runs. A shift would kill a heavy GB hitter who is also a heavy pull hitter. His coaches would teach him to hit the ball in the air unless he just doesn't have the strength for it.

The shift is only effective when the ball is put in play on the ground. When I've looked at it before, BAgb has budged almost not at all. But I haven't ever seen it for GBs with/without the shift. We ideally would also control for exit velocity.
   42. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 12:51 AM (#6065720)
Here's one thing to consider: it's not just whether the individual batter can learn to take the outside pitch the other way. Maybe Joey Gallo simply can't. But if the shift makes a Gallo type less effective, than those types may very well be replaced by the kinds of hitters who aren't neutered by the shift, which has the same effect if your goal is fewer TTO in the game.
   43. Jay Seaver Posted: February 22, 2022 at 12:52 AM (#6065721)
It's just that lots of left-handed pull hitters don't seem to have figured that out. Hence my comment above about how coaches should just put down the bunt sign more often.


Isn't it less a case that they haven't figured it out so much as the result of getting someone capable of delivering an extra-base hit to dink one down the line is in its way a win for the defense? If the hitter plays it that way, they've got a much better chance at a single (which often means a not-great baserunner on first and a fair chance at a double play in the next at-bat) but no chance of a double or home run (barring the left fielder being completely unprepared), while the slugger who swings away in that situation is going to have a lower average/OBP but a higher OPS.
   44. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 12:55 AM (#6065722)

Isn't it less a case that they haven't figured it out so much as the better results getting someone capable of delivering an extra-base hit to dink one down the line is in its way a win for the defense?


If you can get on base at a decent clip going the other way, that's got to be a win for the offense. Avoiding outs is still an offense's best weapon.
   45. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 03:55 AM (#6065723)

Since a bunt to an un-defended left side is an almost guaranteed single (unless you REALLY suck at it and the catcher fields the ball), the run expectancy for bunting against the shift is, on average, about .45.


No. THe value of a single includes the ability to move a runner from first to third and second to home. A bunt does not do that. Which is one of the main reasons that batters are not bunting against the shift. Its more like getting an intentional walk, except its not a guaranteed IBB, its an intentional walk at best and sometimes and an out.

No doubt someone is gonna reference the time player X bunted for a double in a game. Yeah that happens about once or twice a season so "no."

****

And how the hell can it be .45 since not all bunts are gonna be hits? Im sure there are fast players with bat control who can bunt .500. TIMES 0.33 (the value of a BB) and the expected value of a bunt would be something like 0.16 runs.
   46. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 04:01 AM (#6065724)
When I've looked at it before, BAgb has budged almost not at all. But I haven't ever seen it for GBs with/without the shift.


Yeah Walt did a really excellent study of this perhaps 3 or more years ago. I think another conclusion was that the shift was bringing down .slug a bit.
   47. BDC Posted: February 22, 2022 at 06:59 AM (#6065729)
Incidentally, it was reported late last season that Joey Gallo was leading the league in bunt hits. I don't know if he ended the season with the lead or even where to find such data, but Gallo himself seems to be taking advantage of what they're giving him.
   48. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 22, 2022 at 07:31 AM (#6065730)
#38 Of course you adjust everything else. Or to put it another way, anything that doesn't support your preconceived notions can be dismissed.

Huh? I'm not dismissing anything, I'm just saying we shouldn't jump to conclusions based on unadjusted data and offering a potential explanation for the numbers. If anyone can find data on how individual hitters perform against shifted vs. standard defense, or even data on which hitters are most often shifted against, I'll accept whatever conclusions result from that.
   49. The Duke Posted: February 22, 2022 at 08:48 AM (#6065731)
39. I think we vastly overestimate the concept that “batters can just start spraying the ball the other way or bunting to the left side”. If it was easy to do it would happen a lot. I don’t think you can change an established player that easily be teaching someone to spray the ball around from the age of 18. Here’s a quote from Freddie freeman from that article

Everyone’s like, ‘Just hit the ball the other way.’ Um, so I’m trying to cover five pitches. They’re all moving. One is like 98 mph. And I’m just going to be able to do whatever I want and hit a ball to the left side? It’s not that easy. I wish it was, or I’d do it more often.”

And Morgan Ensburg: A lot of times, the arguments are: ‘Well, why don’t you let the ball get a little bit deeper and then hit it the other way?’ And the simple answer is, it’s too difficult. Your swing is based on how your body organizes. And your contact point is really what it’s been probably for your whole life, because that’s what’s found you success. Your arms are always going to be as long as they are. And you’re going to be holding the bat the same way. So it’s very difficult to all of a sudden become a spray hitter.”

   50. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: February 22, 2022 at 08:57 AM (#6065735)
BABIP 2021 - .292
BABIP 2010 - .297
BABIP 2000 - .300
BABIP 1990 - .287
BABIP 1980 - .287
BABIP 1970 - .281
BABIP 1960 - .277

   51. gehrig97 Posted: February 22, 2022 at 09:24 AM (#6065739)
Incidentally, it was reported late last season that Joey Gallo was leading the league in bunt hits. I don't know if he ended the season with the lead or even where to find such data, but Gallo himself seems to be taking advantage of what they're giving him


Gallo ended up going 7-for-10 on bunts.

Gallo has also tweeted that all he wants for Christmas is a ban on the shift.

Man, I love Joey Gallo.
   52. pikepredator Posted: February 22, 2022 at 09:34 AM (#6065740)
The shift doesn't strike me as a problem, it's one of the few actual innovations we've seen in terms of on-field strategy that makes the game more interesting. As many have stated, it incentivizes hitters to go the other way/bunt/etc. That the hitters are largely unwilling or unable to do so is indicative of the *actual* problem (or, one of the problems).
   53. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 09:35 AM (#6065741)
Gallo ended up going 7-for-10 on bunts.


I can't see how a guy with a .700 OBP isn't a much better Joey Gallo than the one who hits into the shift and hits .211, even if he loses a few XBHs.
   54. Howie Menckel Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:03 AM (#6065743)
If a hard-hit ball by a lefty batter between first and second base that used to be a hit now becomes a ball scooped up by a "rover" in short right field for an out - doesn't that further incentivize said batters to give up on just rapping the ball hard, and instead just swing for the fences?

I don't see how that makes the game more interesting.
   55. John Northey Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:13 AM (#6065744)
#50 - the old lower BABIP 1990/80/70/60 is in part due to changes done to analytics (no more having a 200 hitter with no power who is a wiz on defense at SS/2B/CF). For example, the Jays in 1985 won 99 games with a 2B who had an 82 OPS+, 302 OBP, the Expos of the late 70's were killers (3 future HOF'ers in their early prime) but wasted 2B/SS on guys with OPS+ in the 70's (Speier/Scott). In today's game I wonder if Ozzie Smith would even get a shot as more than a backup (4 times cracked 100 OPS+ in his 19 year career, sub 300 OBP in 2 of his first 4 seasons). The letting guys play who couldn't hit but could field really well would knock the BABIP down significantly one would think. 2000 being a peak for BABIP makes sense as with PED use going wild (post-McGwire/Sosa, Bonds just starting to become inhuman) there was zero incentive to put defense first over offense.

Perfect world we'd see an incentive to play high end defense over offense again at SS/2B/CF (still have it at C). The challenge is how to get there? Banning the shift won't do much that way, although it would make poor defense stand out more I'd think (less positioning means guys who are immobile can't get to the ball).
   56. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:16 AM (#6065745)
If a hard-hit ball by a lefty batter between first and second base that used to be a hit now becomes a ball scooped up by a "rover" in short right field for an out - doesn't that further incentivize said batters to give up on just rapping the ball hard, and instead just swing for the fences?


For today's hitters, I don't think there's much of a difference between trying to hit the ball hard through the right side and trying to hit the ball over the right side.
   57. John Northey Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:18 AM (#6065746)
So Gallo going 7-10 on bunts means his line otherwise was 189/339/453 on non-bunts (792 OPS), 700/700/700 on bunts (1.400 OPS). Easy to say I'd rather have the guy with a 1400 OPS in the lineup. Now, if guys kept doing that we'd see the shift vanish quickly on its own.
   58. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:24 AM (#6065747)
Perfect world we'd see an incentive to play high end defense over offense again at SS/2B/CF (still have it at C). The challenge is how to get there? Banning the shift won't do much that way, although it would make poor defense stand out more I'd think (less positioning means guys who are immobile can't get to the ball).


Just anecdotally I think the overall quality of defense is superior to the game of the 70s and 80s.
   59. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:31 AM (#6065750)
It can't be just from better defense although thats an interesting pt. For one thing there was a lot more bunting in all those previous decades
   60. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:39 AM (#6065754)
Have you or anyone you know ever gone to a baseball game to see DJ LeMahieu?
   61. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 10:53 AM (#6065757)
THe value of a single includes the ability to move a runner from first to third and second to home. A bunt does not do that.


It sure does, at least with an extreme shift with nobody in the neighborhood of third base.
   62. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 01:21 PM (#6065785)
Ok do you have an numbers on that? Because if it was significant it would be impacting the shifting. The last time I asked someone pointed out an incident or two. A stat would be nice. I know I've seen it happen on video once
   63. Buck Coats Posted: February 22, 2022 at 01:24 PM (#6065787)
But that "Gallo 7-10 on bunts" is just his success rate when he gets the bunt down. It doesn't include any of the at-bats where he fails at getting the bunt down and now has 2 strikes. Certainly bunting for a hit is a great play if you can always get the bunt down. The problem is that most of these players can't, and the bunt strategy for them just leads to more strikeouts.
   64. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 01:25 PM (#6065788)
Also on the rising babip. There were more errors in the 70s and 80s. So what passed for an error in 1975 became a single in 1995.

So we now have two numbers to factor to adjust the babip numbers quoted above. My impression is that babip has not really moved since ww I or so.

Also note that the trends you are citing for 70s and 80s do correspond to changes in errors and bunts
   65. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 01:27 PM (#6065790)
And Gallo is cherry picking the best of that season. You can't just cite Gallo and claim half the league is capable of bunting .700

I think a few guys are capable of bunting .500 but that is barely over break even
   66. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 01:29 PM (#6065791)
Also on no. 61 I specifically asked about that a year or so ago: do you see them shift much with a man on second? I know it happens but as I recall the shift is diminished with man on second
   67. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 01:31 PM (#6065793)
But that "Gallo 7-10 on bunts" is just his success rate when he gets the bunt down. It doesn't include any of the at-bats where he fails at getting the bunt down and now has 2 strikes.


You don't get charged with two strikes if you miss or foul off a bunt attempt (I doubt he's trying it twice in a single at bat). Also, those pitches would have been strikes anyway (particularly with Gallo at the plate), and you don't have to offer if it's off the plate.

I think a few guys are capable of bunting .500 but that is barely over break even


I think anyone who could bunt .500 would be wise to do so (unless you're actually a great hitter, which Gallo is not).

do you see them shift much with a man on second? I know it happens but as I recall the shift is diminished with man on second


Not nearly as much, or as severely, since it's a pretty good invitation to have a man on third.
   68. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 01:59 PM (#6065800)

#50 - the old lower BABIP 1990/80/70/60 is in part due to changes done to analytics (no more having a 200 hitter with no power who is a wiz on defense at SS/2B/CF). For example, the Jays in 1985 won 99 games with a 2B who had an 82 OPS+, 302 OBP, the Expos of the late 70's were killers (3 future HOF'ers in their early prime) but wasted 2B/SS on guys with OPS+ in the 70's (Speier/Scott). In today's game I wonder if Ozzie Smith would even get a shot as more than a backup (4 times cracked 100 OPS+ in his 19 year career, sub 300 OBP in 2 of his first 4 seasons). The letting guys play who couldn't hit but could field really well would knock the BABIP down significantly one would think. 2000 being a peak for BABIP makes sense as with PED use going wild (post-McGwire/Sosa, Bonds just starting to become inhuman) there was zero incentive to put defense first over offense.


I took shortstop putouts + assists/all putouts (minus strikeouts) to see if shortstops were converting fewer outs compared to the rest of the defense, than they used to:

1985 - 22.0%
1995 - 22.3%
2005 - 22.1%
2015 - 22.3%
2021 - 21.2%
   69. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 02:07 PM (#6065801)
I took shortstop putouts + assists/all putouts (minus strikeouts) to see if shortstops were converting fewer outs compared to the rest of the defense, than they used to:


There would be fewer CS in 21 (but also in 15).
   70. TJ Posted: February 22, 2022 at 02:10 PM (#6065803)
Have to admit I enjoyed watching my beloved Detroit Tigers approach to hitting against the shift with runners in scoring position last year. Teams would shift against Miggy Cabrera and Jonathon Schoop in those situations. Miggy and Schoop might take one shot at jacking one out, but when they got down in the count would obviously try to shoot one through the hole at second base. Worked often enough to make a difference, I think, and I don’t know why more hitters don’t take that approach…
   71. Jack Sommers Posted: February 22, 2022 at 04:12 PM (#6065834)
The shift is only effective when the ball is put in play on the ground. When I've looked at it before, BAgb has budged almost not at all. But I haven't ever seen it for GBs with/without the shift. We ideally would also control for exit velocity.


Groundballs BABIO Standard vs SHFT, 85 MPH or under

Year GB Stan GB SHFT
2015 .136    .137
2016 .140    .141
2017 .139    .138
2018 .138    .135
2019 .133    .152
2020 .154    .155
2021 .153    .165



Groundballs Stan vs SHFT, 86 MPH or over

Year GB Stan GB SHFT
2015 .359    .263
2016 .357.   .291
2017 .374.   .293
2018 .352.   .275
2019 .351    .286
2020 .328    .253
2021 .326    .271


Lends credence to the need to control for batter quality it seems.

Softer groundballs almost no difference, hard hit ground balls a huge difference...

Also

I should be splitting out by handedness.......I remember Tango saying teams should stop infield shifts against right hand hitters......

But I got work to do. :)





   72. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 04:30 PM (#6065838)
Does the second table in 71 suggest the shift is working or does it still need to be sorted by batter? Would think the better batters would hit it harder so the table almost speaks for itself
   73. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 22, 2022 at 04:38 PM (#6065839)
And how the hell can it be .45 since not all bunts are gonna be hits? Im sure there are fast players with bat control who can bunt .500. TIMES 0.33 (the value of a BB) and the expected value of a bunt would be something like 0.16 runs.


That's the run value of a single. With no defender on the left side of the field, pretty much every bunt is a single.
   74. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 04:49 PM (#6065845)
Even Ichiro could not bat 1.000 bunting
   75. Jack Sommers Posted: February 22, 2022 at 04:58 PM (#6065846)
Does the second table in 71 suggest the shift is working or does it still need to be sorted by batter? Would think the better batters would hit it harder so the table almost speaks for itself


Yeah, as I mentioned, it looks like that lends credence to the need to control for batter quality. But I don't know how to do that easily using the statcast search function . I guess I'd need to download all the player stats since 2015, find a way to label and sort them by whatever arbitrary cutoff and criteria I used for "good" hitter, (avg exit velo, wOBA, xwOBA, something else?) and once I have that list of "good" hitters go back and isolate them in these numbers and total it out.

Gotta be an easier way, but I suck at this part of it..... and I'm being lazy.....too much work. ;)
   76. DFA Posted: February 22, 2022 at 06:13 PM (#6065860)
Even Ichiro could not bat 1.000 bunting

He could if he wanted...
   77. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 06:46 PM (#6065866)

I think anyone who could bunt .500 would be wise to do so (unless you're actually a great hitter, which Gallo is not).


I think you're right on that. I was trying to calculate the break even pt. before and I think its in the neighborhood of .450. So yeah .500 OBP is pretty useful even if you're not driving in any runs .
   78. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 07:52 PM (#6065871)

BABIP 2000 - .300
BABIP 1990 - .287
BABIP 1980 - .287


Getting back to this. Bunts seem pretty steady from 1960-80 and similar for errors. There's a big drop in both from 1980-90. bunts drop about .3% of AB and errors about 0.8%. So if we add back 1.1% to 1980 BABIP we get:

.298.

So babip seems pretty steady from last year to at least since 1980.

Even going back to 1960 babip looks to be about 29% so that seems pretty steady, perhaps astro turf and other effects may have improved fielding just a tad from 1960 to 1980.

ALso interesting, there was a huge drop in bunting from 1945 to 1950, about 0.6%. Losing about 28 bunts/season. It held steady from there for 7 seasons.
   79. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 08:02 PM (#6065872)
With no defender on the left side of the field, pretty much every bunt is a single.


OK I get what you're saying now, but if you start doing that. the defense will adjust.

OK Matty Alou is the career record holder at 73%. With Carew at 72%. WHich is impressive. But obviously they are relying on the suprise element. ELSE THEY WOULD HAVE DONE IT EVERY AB.

SO Ok, I guess we can start with a base of 70% or so for a guy w/ speed. It has to go downhill from there if you are going to do it every time.

Brett Butler had twice as many bunt singles as Alou (190 vs 90), his career bunt avg: 50%

Wow. So even with great speed, and a very good bunter. If you start doing it more, now its down to 50%. BUtler was bunting for a hit apparently about 5% of the time.... Alou was doing it 2% of the time.

There's no way you could bunt .500 if you do it every AB.

Still interesting, I admit.
   80. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 08:22 PM (#6065876)
OK I get what you're saying now, but if you start doing that. the defense will adjust.


But the defense adjusting is what the hitter wants. The hitter is only going to bunt when the shift is on and there is no one there.
   81. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 08:31 PM (#6065880)
several interesting tables here:

https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2012/12/10/3748738/best-bunter-all-time-career-bunt-hits-bases-empty-mlb

of the top 5 guys by total bunt hits, Lofton leads w/ 54%. Wills at 47%.

Carew and Alou also in the top ten, but they have less than 1/2 the attempts as the top 5 guys. I think its clear doing it more is going to cause your % to go down.

Maury Freakin Wills: 47%! Think of that for a while. That's barely above break even.
   82. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 08:37 PM (#6065883)
But the defense adjusting is what the hitter wants.



OK so what numbers do you propose? WHat pct bunting and what pct swinging away? and what production line will that ultimatelyl get us to?
   83. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 08:42 PM (#6065885)
I think if the defense is leaving third unoccupied, the smart lefthanded hitter would bunt down the third base line until they change. That's going to be the better percentage play.

But, I don't think many do that because a) they like swinging away and b) they think bunting is for, as they would put it, pussies (we see that in the reaction to players bunting for hits to break up no-hitters, even in close games).
   84. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 22, 2022 at 09:24 PM (#6065886)
but like how often 10% or 100%? And then if they start to meet that, how long before you go back to swinging? Do these numbers work?
   85. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 09:40 PM (#6065889)
Pretty close to 100 percent until they change their alignment.
   86. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 22, 2022 at 11:06 PM (#6065894)
I think if the defense is leaving third unoccupied, the smart lefthanded hitter would bunt down the third base line until they change. That's going to be the better percentage play.

It's partly a situational question - getting a high-percentage chance at a runner on first makes a bigger difference if you're leading off the inning than if there are 2 outs and nobody on, for instance. But the hitter has control over that (as long as the defense is shifting regardless of base-out state) and can pick the optimal spots to use whichever approach is merited.
   87. SoSH U at work Posted: February 22, 2022 at 11:19 PM (#6065897)
It's partly a situational question - getting a high-percentage chance at a runner on first makes a bigger difference if you're leading off the inning than if there are 2 outs and nobody on, for instance. But the hitter has control over that (as long as the defense is shifting regardless of base-out state) and can pick the optimal spots to use whichever approach is merited.


No question, there would be some instances where swinging away is merited, either because of game state or even pitcher matchup (some may be more difficult to bunt than others) and possibly some game theory type stuff.

But in general, if you can bunt at a rate that exceeds the value you'll get from swinging away, then do it until they adjust the defense to stop you.

   88. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 23, 2022 at 08:29 AM (#6065908)
BUt cant the defense disguise their intent to play the bunt? E.g. by charging in at the last second?

You make it sound like you can just get the defense to play in and then swing away. Or shift and then bunt but its not that simple is it?
   89. SoSH U at work Posted: February 23, 2022 at 09:30 AM (#6065923)
BUt cant the defense disguise their intent to play the bunt? E.g. by charging in at the last second?


If the guy is stationed at third, then sure he can. But that's not where the defender is playing on the shift (because it leaves an enormous gap on the left side of the infield, instead of just the large one). Typically the only defender on the left side of the infield is stationed at short, and he's not going to be able to charge in on time from there.
   90. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 23, 2022 at 10:59 AM (#6065933)
I was pretty much envisioning it where he charges in from short.
   91. SoSH U at work Posted: February 23, 2022 at 11:19 AM (#6065940)
I was pretty much envisioning it where he charges in from short.


I don't see how that can work. He'd have to start well before the pitch was even thrown.
   92. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 23, 2022 at 11:52 AM (#6065944)
Normally fielders who charge would do it once they see the batter is bunting. I guess it depends where the guy is exactly in the shift but he should be able to cover some of that ground once he sees the batter is bunting.
   93. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 23, 2022 at 12:42 PM (#6065950)
The game has become less and less entertaining and the shift is a big contributor to it.

No, to the extent that the game has become less entertaining, it's because too many 10 to 15 home run hitters imagine they're Aaron Judge, and what we're getting as a result are more and more of the least entertaining part of TTO without an significant addition to the one part that's actually entertaining.** AFAIC if shifts frustrate hitters like that, it's all to the good.

** And with most of these would-be sluggers we don't even get many walks.
   94. Ron J Posted: February 23, 2022 at 01:17 PM (#6065955)
Further to #92 when he spotted the third baseman setting up in medium left field (not precisely a shift, just something that's always been common against power hitters and works for this type of discussion) Mike Schmidt used to drop down a bunt. He stopped doing that after he lost most of his speed. Other infielders (usually the SS) were able to make the play and get him.
   95. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: February 23, 2022 at 01:21 PM (#6065956)
The "SS" in most shifts is playing deep short. Even if they charge on the delivery, they aren't making a meaningful play on the ball.
   96. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 23, 2022 at 03:51 PM (#6065969)
Even charging a good bunt from a normal third base position is not a guarantee of an out. Charging a good bunt from a normal shortstop position seems unlikely to accomplish much at all, honestly.
   97. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 23, 2022 at 04:49 PM (#6065985)
this whole discussion has the makings of well this:


Sal Maglie had a great hint for one of their weaker hitters, Vic Davalillo. "Knock him down, then put the next three pitches knee-high on the outside corner, boom, boom, boom, and you've got him." Everybody laughed. If you could throw three pitches, boom, boom, boom, knee-high on the outside corner, you wouldn't have to knock anybody down.
   98. TJ Posted: February 23, 2022 at 06:43 PM (#6066004)
Sal Maglie had a great hint for one of their weaker hitters, Vic Davalillo. "Knock him down, then put the next three pitches knee-high on the outside corner, boom, boom, boom, and you've got him."


Wasn’t this Sal the Barber’s strategy with every hitter?

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