Wyers: What we really know about the shift

From SABR member Colin Wyers at Baseball Prospectus on June 6, 2012, with mention of SABR member John Dewan:

Last week, we examined the effects of fielding shifts on fielding metrics. For those who missed out, I’d advise you to go read it, but the short version is that location-based fielding metrics can overstate the importance of fielding shifts to a team’s defense and thus overrate players who are shifted in such an arrangement.

But if the fielding shifts are throwing defensive metrics off, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t contributing to team defense, right? … Major media outlets like the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and others are getting on the shift bandwagon as well. The common thread through those media articles is info supplied by Baseball Info Solutions. Let’s first discuss that info briefly, and then let’s consider how to proceed when we don’t have it.

Baseball Info Solutions utilizes “video scouts” to watch commercial feeds of baseball games (the same baseball broadcasts you or I get on cable, satellite, Extra Innings or MLB.tv, in other words). In the case of the shift, they describe their data collection thusly (from The Fielding Bible, Volume III, page 45):

At Baseball Info Solutions we code The Shift and the shift. Anytime a team moves their infielders out of the normal alignment we call it a shift. That includes the Ted Williams Shift, also known as simply The Shift, where three infielders are on one side of the second base bag. But it also includes other similar shifts such as these:

[images of shift types]

These we code as a generic shift, but we also code The Shift.

In other words, it’s a binary shift/no-shift designation, with a special designation for the Ted Williams “wishbone” shift.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17265

Originally published: June 6, 2012. Last Updated: June 6, 2012.