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December 2011



Is the Ted Williams Shift Effective?

Written by , Posted in Stat of the Week

by John Dewan

The short answer: Absolutely.

But only if the bases are empty.

For the past two years Baseball Info Solutions has been tracking every play during which the defensive team employs a “Ted Williams” type shift where three infielders are playing to the right of second base. Based on our preliminary study of this data, The Shift works when the bases are empty.

There are five players who faced the shift more than 200 times in 2010 and 2011.  They are David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder.   When looking at groundballs and short liners that they hit (balls that can be handled by infielders), every one of them did worse when facing The Shift with no one on base.  Here are the results:

Batting Average, 2010-2011
Groundballs and Short Liners Only, Bases Empty
  Shift On No Shift
David Ortiz .208 .259
Ryan Howard .174 .273
Carlos Pena .183 .213
Adam Dunn .207 .263
Prince Fielder .208 .248

On average, that’s 55 points of batting average lost to The Shift.

Based on a smaller sample size (because managers employ The Shift less often with men on base), the data is only showing a 3-point batting average drop when using The Shift with runners on.

These are our preliminary findings.  We will study this in greater detail in The Fielding Bible—Volume III coming out in the spring.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,”

  • Doc Raker

    So this would be an example of how BABIP can be effected by the opposing teams defensive alignment. Luck isn’t factored into this stat but it is measuring BABIP, interesting. Note that the stat only pertains to balls not squared up, “ground balls and short liners”, interesting. Do they tell you what percentage of balls hit into play are grounders or short liners? Kinda like a what percentage of balls are squared up by a hitter? Interesting.

  • I think you are looking for LBABIP, lucky batting average for balls in play. Killer stat. You should take a look into BAGBASL, which is batting average for ground balls and short liners.

  • Buddy

    Is the Ted Williams Shift anything like the Wilbury Twist?

  • Doc Raker

    Do yous remember Jody Davis in 1984? The first half of the season he wore out the left center gap ripping doubles, his BABIP was .300 for the first half of the season. In the second half of the season the opposition shifted the center fielder into left center and he had a BABIP of .254. He hit the ball the same, kept hitting it in the same place, the defense made an adjustment. Bad luck for Jody so his CFSBABIP (center field shiftBABIP) dropped.

  • Buddy

    Jody also hit the wall physically. He caught in the neighborhood of 150 games that year, which is criminal.

  • The stat you should look into is Batting Average for Liners Lost to Shift Against Catchers

  • lizzie


  • Doc Raker

    Jody did fatigue but the opposition shifted the outfield on him, it was obvious at the time and I remember it well. At the time I didn’t know there was a stat BALLSAC as Jswan explained above. I will have to keep track of my BALLSAC this January, especially with Seymour and the Cap’n around.