Are Rays' Shifts Redefining Infield Defense?

Extreme defensive shifts have been around for a long, long time. The generic term is "Ted Williams shift" because Lou Boudreau deployed an extreme shift - much more extreme, by the way, than anything you'll see today - against Williams, for the first time in 1946. I haven't seen any whole Rays games yet, and I suspect it's too early to say their use of shifts has reached a new level. Maybe the Rays would have saved exactly as many runs and made exactly as many plays if they hadn't shifted at all. Unlike the anecdotal evidence showing how shifting seems to be working for the Rays and Brewers, we consider the 40-50 point drop in batting average on grounders, short liners and bunts against the Ted Williams Shift to be direct evidence in favor of The Shift. After shifting only 22 times in 2010 under manager Ken Macha, they shifted 170 times in 2011 under Ron Roenicke. Rather, they were shifted 170 times when balls were batted into play; none of these numbers include plate appearances that ended in strikeouts or walks, or during which the defense began in a shift but came out of it for some reason.

Works which reference this piece

Baseball Positions Are Starting To Lose Their Meaning

MLB has its own spin on the "positionless" trends found in other sports.

More from The Shift

Worst shifts in the league? Why Jake Arrieta may have a...

Jake Arrieta unloaded on the Phillies' defensive shifting after a "horseshit" sweep in San Francisco. He's spot on, according to some metrics assessing the team's use of shifts.

How To Beat The Shift - Baseball Prospectus

The Shift is dying under an avalanche of walks.