Carleton: Burn the shifts

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on December 18, 2017:

You probably think that The Shift works because you saw a chart that looks something like this.


Those are league-wide numbers and they show that when a ground ball is hit in front of The Shift, it’s turned into an out more often than if it’s hit in front of an un-shifted defense.

You reasonably figured that if BABIP was lower against The Shift, then it must be doing something right. I have bad news for you. We need to talk about selective sampling.

Here’s a list of names: Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Seager, Mike Moustakas, Mitch Moreland, Jay Bruce, Rougned Odor, Carlos Santana, Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, Kole Calhoun, Logan Morrison, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo, Albert Pujols, Matt Joyce, Alex Gordon, Freddie Freeman, Lucas Duda, Brian McCann, Yonder Alonso, Eric Hosmer, Jake Lamb, Chris Davis, Cody Bellinger, Carlos Beltran, Victor Martinez, Brian Dozier, Brandon Belt, Giancarlo Stanton, Scott Schebler, Jackie Bradley, Edwin Encarnacion, Seth Smith, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Justin Bour.

What do these 39 men have in common? In 2017, they all hit at least 200 balls in play against a shifted defense. Also, most of them are big, slow power htiters. There’s nothing wrong with being a big, slow power hitter, but those guys tend to have two things working against them in the BABIP department.

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Originally published: December 18, 2017. Last Updated: December 18, 2017.