Shift in philosophy

Ryan Howard is one of many players who regularly sees an infield shift. Getty Images

When Braves slugger Eric Hinske strode to the plate recently, he faced something he'd only faced once so far this year -- an infield shift, with three infielder to the right of second base. Hinske, of course, is having a bit of a resurgent year, but you're probably asking yourself, "Who shifts Eric Hinske?!?"

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the most liberal-shifting team in baseball: the Tampa Bay Rays. At Baseball Info Solutions, one of the many details recorded on a ball in play is a defensive shift. Joe Maddon's ballclub has shifted 18 different hitters this year, ranging from the expected (David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira) to the unexpected (J.D. Drew, Brian McCann) to the completely unexpected (Michael Saunders, Juan Miranda). But when we examine the data, it's clear that shifts are a smart strategic move.