Early Hitter Shift Data

With about a month of baseball played so far, let’s take a look today at some of the players hitting into an infield shift. Some players have always been shifted like David Ortiz and Ryan Howard, but other hitters are seen the shift deployed against them for the first time. Today, I will look at some early season trends on some players and the effects they may be seeing.

First off, here is the complete leader board for when an infield shift was in place when a hitter put the ball in play (min 10 hits) as April 26th (the data is always a few days behind). I am only looking at infield shifts (three or more IF on one side of field), no outfield shifts or bunt defenses. Because of this, sometimes the overall batting average on balls in play is not between the infield shift and the no shift data. (2013 data for reference)


• Brian McCann is getting shifted quite a bit more in the AL East than he did in the NL East. He hit into the shift 143 times all of last season. So far this season, he has hit into 55 of them. The effects are about the same on his stats. The difference between his no-shift and shifted BABIP was 120 points in 2013. This season, it is 121 points (.375 vs .254).

• Albert Pujols is the right-hand hitter who has hit into a shifts the most. The following charts show the reason teams employ the shift.

Source: FanGraphs

He has not hit one ground ball to the right side. He has been successful so far finding holes in the defense. People should not expect him to keep it up all season.

Matt Adams came into 2014 with a plan to beat the shift as documented my Mike Petriello a couple of weeks ago. It is a bit interesting the chess game being played with Matt Adams. In the first half of 2013, when teams weren’t shifting him, he hit .316 with 7 HRs in 144 PA. In the second half the season, teams began the shift and he kept the power up (10 HRs in 175 PA), but his batting average dropped (.258). This season, he has decided to beat the shift by going the other way. In the process, his batting average is up to .327, but he only has 1 HR in 107 PA.

I think teams will continue to shift him because they get a lesser hitter no matter his batting strategy. He will either pull the ball for a low AVG and power -or- go the other way for AVG and no power. If teams stop shifting, they will have to deal with the high AVG and power hitter.

• Marc Krauss hit into the shift twice in 2013 in 146 PA. This season, he has hit into it nineteen times. He is not a feared hitter in any way, but teams are willing to take advantage of his pull tendencies. In the past, it was only the stars who go shifted. Now if any hitter show a strong pull tendency, they will likely get shifted.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

12 Responses to “Early Hitter Shift Data”

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  1. Wobatus says:

    Matt Adams wRC+ was 136 last year and 131 so far this year, and his real problem has been lack of walks, not going the other way and thus losing power.

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  2. scotman144 says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Seeing McCann’s name near the top of the chart and first mentioned in this article made me slightly proud of myself:


    Your work on shift data is phenomenal Jeff. Thank you so much for all that you do.

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  3. Ben Cerutti says:

    Can’t wait until Matt Adams starts going the other way with power more regularly.

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    • Deelron says:

      Well he has 9 doubles on the year so far in 112 PA, compared to only 14 last year in 312. The doubles increase seems like it makes it almost a wash.

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  4. LHPSU says:

    Quite interesting to see David Ortiz’s numbers. We know that these 2-3 years he’s become a more complete hitter, including laying down bunts against the shift.

    And then there’s Adam Dunn, and you’ve reported on his attempt to reinvent himself going to opposite field, and it looks like it’s paid dividends so far, although the current numbers are fluky.

    Got to think that these two should see less shifts.

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  5. mZimm says:

    How can Fielder’s overall BABIP be higher than his shifted and non-shifted BABIP?

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      As written in the article:

      I am only looking at infield shifts (three or more IF on one side of field), no outfield shifts or bunt defenses. Because of this, sometimes the overall batting average on balls in play is not between the infield shift and the no shift data.

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  6. Caps Lock says:

    The shift from day to night takes approximately 9 hours during the period covering the world series. Matt Adams has 9 letters in his name. No wonder he struggled. He could not beat the shift.

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  7. LD says:

    How much of McCann’s early struggles can be attributed to plate discipline rather than shifts? His O-Swing% is 35.1% (up from career 27.8%)and his Z-Swing% is at 64.7% (down from career 68.1%).

    His GB% is actually down (18.6% vs. 19.9% career) but his IFFB% is way up (17.8% vs. 9.7% career).

    IFFB are outs whether shift is on or not. He’s swinging more at pitches outside the zone and fewer at pitches in the zone, resulting in almost twice the league average IFFB%.

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  8. Are you going to provide an update as we get close to the All-Star break? We’d love to see how Davis’s numbers are being impacted by the shift.

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