Neyer: Are Rays’ infield shifts redefining defense?

From SABR member Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation on April 10, 2012:

 It’s the Tigers vs. the Rays, 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Phenom Matt Moore’s pitching for Tampa Bay.

Ryan Raburn’s coming up with one out and nobody aboard. Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez takes up position to the shortstop side of second base. Raburn pops into shallow center, with Raburn drifting back to make the play.

Jhonny Peralta’s up next. Same basic shift by the Rays: three infielders on the shortstop side of second base. Peralta lifts a fly to center field, where Desmond Jennings gathers it in.

Extreme defensive shifts have been around for a long, long time. The generic term is “Ted Williams shift” because Lou Boudreau deployed an extreme shift — much more extreme, by the way, than anything you’ll see today — against Williams, for the first time in 1946. But other managers had shifted their fielders.

It used to be rare, though. And done almost exclusively against left-handed power hitters.

Joe Maddon’s turned that on its ear.


Read the full article here:

Related link: Listen to Baseball Info Solutions’ John Dewan and Ben Jedlovec on “An Evaluation of the Ted Williams Shift” at the SABR Analytics Conference (March 17, 2012)

Originally published: April 10, 2012. Last Updated: April 10, 2012.