With Eric Karabell on a well-deserved vacation this week, we've got a collection of guest bloggers filling in. Jim Bowden batted leadoff Monday, Keith Law had the honors on Tuesday and Wednesday was Tom Lasko's turn.
Thursday, we're joined by Scott Spratt of Baseball Info Solutions, who fills us in on the impact of the increase in defensive shifts in MLB, and which players could be impacted most by the strategy.
If you’ve watched any baseball this season, then you’ve probably noticed the increase in defensive shifts. Baseball Info Solutions began tracking shifts in 2010, and as recently as three years ago, they were a niche strategy. Since then, the number of shifts has nearly doubled each of the past two seasons, and this season is on pace to nearly double the total from 2013, as well.
In 2011, only a handful of progressive teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays shifted even 100 times in a year. Now, teams like the Rays are more the rule than the exception. In fact, every team in baseball is on pace to exceed 100 shifts on balls in play this season. The Houston Astros have already set the record for most shifts by a team in a season with their 655 shifts to date, and it is June 19. The previous record was 595 shifts, set last season by the Baltimore Orioles. Five other teams are on pace to break the old record, as well.
Fantasy owners have already become used to players like David Ortiz and Chris Davis being shifted against, but 30 home runs provide quite the tonic for the loss of a handful of potential ground ball hits for those players.
However, the dramatic increase in shifts in baseball is not just the result of more teams shifting the same old batters. Instead, teams are using batted ball tendencies to shift more players and more types of players, and the ones who continue to pull their balls in the infield have already seen declines in their batting averages because of it.