Carleton: Fixing the hole in the shift

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on June 15, 2018:

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been studying The Shift with a critical eye. I’ve found that while The Shift does suppress singles, it also increases walks (and other non-preferred outcomes, from the defense’s point of view) enough that it cancels out all of those extra saved singles and then some. The effect seems to happen because pitchers change the way that they pitch, throwing more pitches outside the strike zone. The effect isn’t huge (it’s an extra ball per few dozen pitches), but that’s enough to delete all of the positive value of The Shift.

What’s interesting is that with some deeper analyses, we were able to see that if a pitcher could fight against whatever force is causing the extra balls, they could get rid of the walks and still maintain the good part of The Shift. The Shift was supposed to be the fix to a hole in the defense. It turns out it was just a differently shaped hole.

It’s a weird place to be in. For the longest time, the assumption was that The Shift worked, and in fairness, the math says that it doesn’t not work. It just doesn’t work. If that’s confusing, I think it’s instructive to consider the most common objection to The Shift to date. Inevitably, when a defense shifts, there are ground balls that are hit past where a fielder would have been standing. Those were, no doubt, annoying. But there were also balls hit right at a fielder who was standing in a weird place, where he was specifically put by The Shift.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: June 15, 2018. Last Updated: June 15, 2018.