His middle-infield teammate, Travis Shaw, was starting just his fourth game at second base - a position he had never played as a professional before this season. The Indians, whose pitchers set a record for strikeouts last season, played second baseman Jason Kipnis in center field at the end of the regular season and in the American League Division Series against the Yankees - Kipnis hadn't played center regularly since he played at Arizona State. Last year, 25 players played at least 10 games in left, right and center field, an MLB record. The number of players to play at least 10 games at second, third and shortstop in a given season is on the rise, too, with a record 20 players doing so in 2016. A record 27 players played at least 10 games at third and shortstop in 2016, and the 24 players to do so in 2017 tied for second all-time. Defensive shifts have become a common part of the game and changed the meaning of what it is to play second base or shortstop. Russell Carleton found for Baseball Prospects earlier this month that the defensive spectrum might need rethinking, arguing that positions are skill-specific and that the penalty of moving some players to more challenging positions is greater.

Works referenced by this piece

On 6,105 occasions last season, a major leaguer walked to the plate and hammered a baseball over the outfield wall. The 2017 season broke the home run record th…

In each of the last two seasons, Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays did more infield shifting than any other team in the majors. But does it work? And are they taking things to a new level in 2012?

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