Yankees gaining a defensive edge
The winners and losers of increased defensive shifting this season
Most baseball fans are aware of the escalating MLB trend of teams using more and more defensive shifts over the past few years, but this year things have gone to another level.
In 2010, Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) began tracking detailed data on the use of defensive shifts. That season, we recorded 2,464 shifts on balls in play. After holding steady in 2011, the number of shifts employed across the league increased pretty significantly: to 4,577 in 2012, then to 8,134 in 2013. This season, the league is taking another massive leap forward.
Two and a half weeks into the season, we are on pace for an astonishing 12,500 shifts on balls in play in 2014. We have reached the point where a fundamental shift (no pun intended) has occurred in the way the game is played.
However, just because teams are employing more shifts, that does not mean that every team is experiencing the same success with their shifts. Below are a few examples of some of the biggest winners and losers of the defensive shifting that teams have been doing during the first few weeks of the season.
As Buster Olney noted earlier this week, the Yankees have really increased their shifting this year. In 2013, the Yankees ranked eighth in baseball, with 475 shifts on balls in play. This year, they have deployed the second-most shifts in baseball, on pace for about 1,025 shifts on balls in play.
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A pitch clock was among the new pace-of-play procedures tested in the Arizona Fall League.