FG on Fox: Don’t Shift These Batters

You might have heard offense is down around baseball. There’s talk of new rules to stop the shift, as if that was the cause. But maybe the game will police itself without help from the rules committee. It looks like there’s already some batters that shouldn’t be shifted as much as they are currently.

First, it seems strange to blame the shift for the current state of run scoring, even if you ignore that it’s been around for a long time. Here’s a handy little chart showing the batting average on balls in play since free agency began. There have been more shifts, as the number of players shifted 100+ times has gone from 15 to 44 from 2013 to 2014 alone. But it doesn’t look like more shifts have moved the overall BABIP needle at all.


BABIP used to live in the .280s until the mid nineties. Since then, it’s been within a few points of .300 most years. You’d think shifting would catch a few more of those balls in play as they’ve become more prevalent.

You might think we’ll take the easy way out here, and say that we should stop shifting the guys that are hitting well into the shift. But only three players — David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, and Brian McCann — were shifted as much as 300 times. If we focus on their results (Ortiz had a BABIP that was 100 points higher when the shift was on), we’re basically looking at the fate of a few bouncing balls in what amounts to one half-season of at-bats.

So no mention — other than in passing — of the fact that Matt Adams led baseball in shift BABIP (.374) or that Victor Martinez was top-five in that department (.332).

Let’s instead identify the type of hitter that we would not want to shift against. Beyond just “goes the opposite way.”

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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9 years ago

I enjoyed this very much. Once again, we pull out some data which suggests (not proves, but does suggest) that blanket strategies don’t work. I loved the Wilson quote to that end as well.