We’ve seen, heard and read a lot about the extreme defensive shifts being used across the league this season, and witnessed its effectiveness first hand as batting average for balls in play has continued to decline from what were the previous standards. Moving fielders into positions where the ball is most likely to travel with certain hitters at the plate seems like such an obvious thing to do, and yet it simply wasn’t being practiced to the extent that is now.
Over the weekend, Getting Blanked’s Travis Reitsma wrote about how defensive shifts have specifically helped the Toronto Blue Jays in the early going and today, John Lott of the National Post goes into even further detail on how a more active defense has increased the team’s win total and made defensive stars out of its infield.
The most often quoted defensive metric when accounting for defensive shifts is Defensive Runs Saved, which has a complicated formula, but in a quick and dirty sense, can be understood by calculating that if a player makes a play that 25% of players at his position make, he scores 0.75, and if he doesn’t make a play that 25% of the players at his position makes, he loses 0.25 from his cumulative score.
Under these guidelines, the Blue Jays are currently employing three leaders at their position in the team’s infield. This, is due in large part to Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar and Brett Lawrie being positioned in places on the diamond that aren’t typically covered by players of their positional designation.
While more and more attention is being given to active defenses from around the league, what isn’t being talked about as much are the improved analytics going beyond mere spray charts that are informing coaches and players of the tendencies of certain batters. In this sense, I think fielding is the first step to a more wide spread acceptance toward how data can assist in actual decisions being made in the dugout.
It seems to me that while front offices have entrenched themselves strongly in analytics for the purpose of player acquisition, there’s been a disconnect between that thinking and the traditional decisions being made in the dugout. I wonder if the effectiveness of fielding shifts might open up coaches and managers to a more percentage based mode of thinking when it comes to bullpen management, pinch hitting and defensive substitutions.
It’s really only a matter of time until we see that first manager sitting on the bench with an arm firmly clenched around his iPad.
And The Rest
The Philadelphia Phillies fans who taunted Jayson Werth after the Washington Nationals outfielder broke his wrist are only serving to motivate him to get back on the field faster. [Washington Post]
The Arizona Diamondbacks are looking at Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia as a possible trade target. [DJF]
New York Mets rookie middle infielder Jordany Valdespin’s first Major League hit was one of a timely nature: a game winning home run off of Jonathan Paplebon. [Baseball Musings]
Mets catcher Josh Thole is heading to the Disabled List after getting run over in a home plate collision by Ty Wigginton. [Mets Merized]
Bryan LaHair is looking like a superstar in Chicago. How long can it last? Is the Cubs first baseman for real? [Chicago Tribune]
How the phrase “that’s an interesting suggestion” may have saved the Tampa Bay Rays from a potential relocation. [Rays Index]
Kenley Jansen will replace Javy Guera as the closer on the Los Angeles Dodgers. [Los Angeles Times]
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland thinks that the Cole Hamels punishment is an absolute joke. How’s that for old time baseball? [Detroit News]
The New York Yankees closer situation is far from open and shut. [New York Times]
Not bad. [YouTube]
The San Francisco Giants’ defence last night has manager Bruce Bochy questioning whether or not the team skipped Spring Training this year. [Comcast Sportsnet]
An interview with The Rickey Henderson. [Athletics Nation]
Our friend The Common Man presents to us the crimes of CBS Sports reporter Jon Heyman. [The Platoon Advantage]
Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Alex Gonzalez is the latest injury for the very wounded team. [FanGraphs]
I understand that Humberto Quintero home run balls might be rare, but jumping in a fountain to get one might be a bit much. [Big League Stew]
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Henderson Alvarez is due a healthy dose of regression. [Runs Batted Out]
What’s to become of Boston Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz? [Over The Monster]
It’s the latest edition of the DJF Podcast, wherein we try really hard not to be downers about the Toronto Blue Jays. [DJF]
And finally, we talk all about the Cole Hamels/Bryce Harper plunking and give some more love to the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, that part felt very, very wrong. [Getting Blanked]