BASEBALL’S NEW COMPLEX DEFENSES. I posted here about the detailed information that is becoming available about every aspect of the events on a baseball field. Matthew Futterman had an article in the Wall Street Journal (March 28) about how some of the new data has been used by some major league teams in the past two years. The new statistics give percentage tendencies for where the batter is likely to hit the ball so that fielders can change their fielding position from pitch to pitch depending on the batter and the pitch count. There are statistics for the number of times a team “shifts”, with a “shift” being defined as putting three infielders on one side of the field or a comparable extreme positioning. There were 8134 shifts in the major leagues in 2013, compared to 2357 in 2011. Teams that have made heavy use of shifts, and have had success with them, are the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Red Sox. There is, of course, a new statistic to measure the effectiveness of shifts—defensive runs saved by shifting. The Boston Red Sox saved 15 runs by shifting in the 2013 season. Futterman compares the new baseball positioning to the complex formations that football uses based on opponents’ tendencies.

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