From SABR member Rob Arthur at FiveThirtyEight on June 6, 2017:
It wasn’t too long ago that former Phillies great Ryan Howard was a fixture in MVP discussions, atop league leaderboards and on lists of the game’s most marketable stars. But the slugger’s once-promising career is all but over now, after the Atlanta Braves released him in early May.1
On the surface, Howard’s fall doesn’t seem completely atypical of a plodding slugger. But his abrupt decline had less to do with aging or ineffectiveness than it did a specific tactic sweeping through baseball during the back half of his career. The defensive shift ended Howard’s career, and it might have cost him a shot at the Hall of Fame as well.
When the shift is on, defenders move from one side of the infield to the other to give themselves a better chance at cutting off batted balls from hitters who consistently drive the ball in one direction. Howard was a great candidate for the maneuver because he pulled groundballs 66.5 percent of the time, compared to this year’s league average of 53.8. While some hitters try to overcome the shift with well-timed bunts or tactical changes, Howard always stubbornly refused. “All you can do is continue to swing,” Howard said in a 2015 interview with MLB.com.
Read the full article here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/ryan-howards-career-is-dead-the-shift-killed-it/
Originally published: June 6, 2017. Last Updated: June 6, 2017.