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July 2013

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Who's Shifting and Who's Not

Written by , Posted in General

Over the last few years, the use of The Shift Defense has increased dramatically in baseball. Here are the Major League Baseball totals of the number of shifts in baseball, as tracked by Baseball Info Solutions (BIS).

2010 2011 2012 2013 Projected
2,465 2,358 4,577 7,586

Note: These are the number of plate appearances when a shift was in effect when a ball was put in play.

For many years now, most teams have employed The Shift, but only against a handful of players (David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome, etc.). Research done by BIS in recent years has shown there are as many as 100 batters against whom The Shift is likely to be effective. More and more teams are now shifting on more and more different players. Here are the teams shifting the most this year:

Team Number of Shifts Shift Runs Saved
Orioles 344 10
Pirates 335 7
Yankees 302 0
Rays 299 9
Red Sox 291 8

Overall, BIS estimates that teams have saved themselves 89 runs by using The Shift this season.

But even as often as these teams are shifting, they are still not shifting against anywhere near the 100 players suggested by Baseball Info Solutions. The most aggressive (and progressive) teams are now up to about 30 different players against whom they use The Shift Defense. We believe that there is still room for even better results by shifting against as many as 100 different players in MLB.

The Shift Defense. Think of this terminology like you would a special defense in football. Like the Goal Line Defense, the Nickel Package, and the Cover Two. Baseball’s Shift Defense is a special defense to be used in a special situations.

Here are the teams who haven’t yet fully bought into the concept and are shifting the least in baseball:

Team Number of Shifts Shift Runs Saved
Phillies 23 -1
Cardinals 27 0
White Sox 31 -1
Nationals 32 1
Dodgers 38 0

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com

  • SBardo

    I never would have guessed that Pirates were shifty.

  • Darlin_Starlin

    Just put lake and another fast dude in the outfield and play with 5 infielders. And then shift with those 5 players when needed and watch the official score keeper’s head explode.

  • Darlin_Starlin

    Just put lake and another fast dude in the outfield and play with 5 infielders. And then shift with those 5 players when needed and watch the official score keeper’s head explode.

  • Fascinating stuff.

  • PLCB3

    Interesting article on why players don’t bunt against the shift as much:

    http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/11/keeping-score-frustrated-by-the-shift-teixeira-thinks-bunt/?_r=0