Dewan: Shifts happen: 2017 defensive projections

From SABR member John Dewan at ACTA Sports on April 18, 2017:

Two weeks of baseball are now in the books. Early-season standings continue to be unpredictable, but one thing that’s not is the league’s increasing use of shifts. Teams are currently on pace to shift a record number of times for the sixth consecutive season. Note that all shift totals referenced in this article are shifts on balls in play.


With a combined 2,542 shifts this season, teams have already surpassed the total from 2011, demonstrating the drastic overhaul the league has undertaken in just six short years. Over a 162-game season, teams are on pace to total 31,677 shifts, which would represent a 13 percent increase over last season’s number. This pales in comparison to the increase between 2015 and 2016—58 percent—and is actually the smallest percent increase since league-wide shifts began their record-breaking trend between 2011 and 2012. Even though shifts are still increasing, the rate at which they’re doing so is slowing down as teams approach optimal shift usage.

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