The Dodgers Aren’t Shifting

With the new nerd-friendly front office doing nerd things like “not paying for saves” and “adding depth and defense” and “not caring about right-handed power” and “adding a catcher who’s a good pitch-framer” you’d have thought that they’d be at the forefront of one of the most nerd-friendly tactics of all: the shift.

Shift data isn’t usually publicly available, so we don’t talk about it that much. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t ever be found, and on Tuesday my pal Jeff Zimmerman posted the most recent numbers of shifts over at FanGraphs. Look who’s so close to the bottom, won’t you?

Team Batted Balls Into Shift
Orioles 471
Rays 469
Brewers 426
Pirates 423
Astros 412
Red Sox 366
Cubs 348
Yankees 330
Athletics 307
Royals 275
Indians 252
Rangers 251
Mariners 232
Reds 226
Angels 217
Blue Jays 177
Mets 155
Diamondbacks 153
Tigers 146
Giants 138
Marlins 122
Rockies 119
Braves 108
Padres 89
White Sox 83
Cardinals 66
Twins 65
Dodgers 50
Phillies 48
Nationals 42

There shouldn’t be correlations made here. Yes, the Dodgers are doing well at preventing runs, and they’re not shifting. Of course, the Phillies aren’t shifting either, and they give up a ton of runs, and the Pirates are shifting, and they’re very good at run prevention. Even if there was a direct straight line, a month of baseball isn’t enough to show it.

This is less about analysis than merely passing along data, and showing that it’s somewhat interesting that such a statistically-oriented team hasn’t made the move to shift as much as other clubs with that reputation. There’s any number of reasons for that, of course. Perhaps some of the players haven’t bought into it. Perhaps one offseason isn’t enough time to implement it fully. Perhaps the data has dictated that due to the specific matchups the team has faced early on, the shift actually isn’t needed more than it’s being used.

So this is more something to keep an eye on, because it struck me as interesting. You know that whenever a shift is on and a ball goes right to where the shortstop would have been, it causes anger, but then don’t forget how useful it can be when it works perfectly, like it did for Zack Greinke on April 24:

Greinke was most impressive in escaping a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the second inning. He struck out Alexi Amarista and Cashner then Wil Myers ripped a line drive up the middle past Greinke — and right to Howie Kendrick who was playing behind second base in a defensive shift.

If it didn’t work, teams wouldn’t do it. The Dodgers haven’t felt the need to so far, and it hasn’t hurt them. From this front office, that’s an interesting decision.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.