Over the last couple of years many MLB teams have been using defensive shifts when facing batters in hopes for an easier out. Advanced research and a rise in sabermetrics have all contributed to this widespread practice.
While all teams use the strategy to different degrees of success, shifts have continued to grow popular even prompting commissioner Rob Manfred to use them as an example of changes the league could consider. Shifts have been a point of contention among Dodgers fans, but according to data compiled by ESPN’s Mark Simon, they rank among the bottom five teams in terms of times in a shift on balls in play:
Which MLB teams can we document as shifting the most? The answer is in this list ranking 1-30 pic.twitter.com/lXAWeh5Q0U
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) June 13, 2015
The Dodgers’ positioning is interesting to note since its newly revamped front office comes from the school of using advanced statistics heavily. Manager Don Mattingly’s comments indicate he sees the defensive shifts as just playing the percentages since hitters don’t have full of control of where the ball go.
When the Dodgers faced the San Diego Padres on Opening Day, the team used a shift on Matt Kemp, which didn’t work. The team’s coaching staff has labeled Kemp as a heavy-pull hitter and have continued to put a shift to use against him.
The usage of defensive shifts has well been argued about among baseball fans, writers, and the like. While the strategy does seem to help defenses, some remain ardent it takes away from the game’s purity and devalues defensive positions.