Dewan: Why shifting does work

From SABR member John Dewan at ACTA Sports on May 5, 2016:

Renowned Baseball Prospectus researcher Russell Carleton wrote an interesting article earlier this week on Baseball Prospectus that utilized the Baseball Info Solutions shifts data made available by the great folks at FanGraphs and questioned whether defensive shifts are actually an effective technique. However, there are a couple of small flaws in the technique that lead to misleading results.

Carleton came up with a very good approach to apply hitter batting averages on balls in play (BABIP) in non-shifted situations to their number of shifted balls in play. This allowed him to compare hitters’ actual totals of hits to their expected totals of hits, finding that the actual hits exceeded the expected hits and concluding that the shift has been detrimental in net.

However, Carleton’s choice of technique creates a few problems. His technique considered single season BABIP in non-shift situations with a minimum of 100 such plate appearances in that individual season. Unfortunately, this eliminates a large number of the most shifted batters in baseball. In 2012, for example, the most shifted batters in baseball were Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn, and David Ortiz. None of them reached Carleton’s threshold of 100 balls in play in non-shift situations, meaning Carleton is leaving out the three players facing the shift the most. In 2015, when shifts were much more prevalent, this approach throws out 7 of the top 11 shifted batters.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 5, 2016. Last Updated: May 5, 2016.