Wyers: Manufactured runs: Who gives a shift?

From SABR member Colin Wyers at Baseball Prospectus on May 30, 2012:

The new “new Moneyball” is putting your fielders in really weird places. In [Brett] Lawrie’s case, the Toronto Blue Jays are employing a new kind of shift, where the third baseman is the only fielder to shift, and boy does he shift—all the way into short right field. … We don’t have to speculate that this shift is affecting his defensive rating—Baseball Info Solutions confirms as much in a May 11th article.


So the plays Lawrie make “save runs for the team,” by DRS’s reckoning. But do they really? And (more importantly) are they saving as many runs as DRS says they are? (And why are FRAA and TotalZone, metrics which do not exclude shift plays, not crediting Lawrie for the extra shift plays that DRS seems to?)

First, we want to know how many plays Lawrie has made while in this shift. BIS does not, to my knowledge, publish such information through Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, or Bill James Online. BIS gets their data by watching telecasts of games, though, so anyone with an MLB.tv account and a goodly chunk of spare time can replicate their methodology. In order to make the task manageable, I used our database to produce a list of all at-bats by a left-handed hitter where the ball was fielded by Lawrie. Then I watched them. And I counted how many times Lawrie fielded the ball in short right field (I ignored any plays where a more conventional shift may have been employed, although I believe there were only one or two of those anyway).

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17183

Originally published: May 30, 2012. Last Updated: May 30, 2012.