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®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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