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(USA Today)   A look at how shifting has affected batting averages this year, and not just because their junk is out of the way   (usatoday.com ) divider line
    More: Interesting, batting average, inside edge, Baseball positioning, Yu Darvish, Brian McCann, David Ortiz  
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1307 clicks; posted to Sports » on 20 May 2014 at 8:35 AM (1 year ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-05-20 08:05:50 AM  
This is the kind of thrilling analysis that makes baseball such an exciting "sport".
 
2014-05-20 08:17:33 AM  
The most astounding thing about the shift is that a hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the fences.
 
2014-05-20 08:47:37 AM  
What's up with the Astros?! 412 shifts already this early into the season, compared with 565 all of last year (5th highest total). I don't think it's helping...
 
2014-05-20 08:52:31 AM  

Marcus Aurelius: The most astounding thing about the shift is that a hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the fences.


That's the whole point of the shift.  The defense wants Ortiz or whatever big slugger to swing differently.  They'll give up a single to put a slow runner on first instead of a HR or scorcher in the gap.
 
2014-05-20 08:55:19 AM  

MugzyBrown: Marcus Aurelius: The most astounding thing about the shift is that a hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the fences.

That's the whole point of the shift.  The defense wants Ortiz or whatever big slugger to swing differently.  They'll give up a single to put a slow runner on first instead of a HR or scorcher in the gap.


Sure, they will gladly give up ONE single.

They will tire of it when he does it for the fifth time in a row.
 
2014-05-20 08:57:23 AM  

Marcus Aurelius: Sure, they will gladly give up ONE single.

They will tire of it when he does it for the fifth time in a row.


Depends on the situation.  It takes at least 2 more hits to score Ortiz from first.
 
2014-05-20 09:02:27 AM  
Moneyball sucked. Bring back power hitting.
 
2014-05-20 09:04:51 AM  

Marcus Aurelius: MugzyBrown: Marcus Aurelius: The most astounding thing about the shift is that a hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the fences.

That's the whole point of the shift.  The defense wants Ortiz or whatever big slugger to swing differently.  They'll give up a single to put a slow runner on first instead of a HR or scorcher in the gap.

Sure, they will gladly give up ONE single.

They will tire of it when he does it for the fifth time in a row.


Ichiro couldn't do that five times in a row.
 
2014-05-20 09:08:24 AM  

TabASlotB: What's up with the Astros?! 412 shifts already this early into the season, compared with 565 all of last year (5th highest total). I don't think it's helping...


Strangely enough, they're playing well right now. Just took series from the White Sox & Rangers. In addition, they beat the Angels last night. However, the bullpen is utterly abhorrent & the starting 9 is wretched. Way too many guys below the Mendoza line.

But they are playing better.
 
2014-05-20 09:11:50 AM  
Shirt lifts.
 
2014-05-20 09:14:54 AM  
The most astounding thing about the shirt lift is that a heavy hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shirt lift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the feces.
 
2014-05-20 09:18:58 AM  

MugzyBrown: Marcus Aurelius: The most astounding thing about the shift is that a hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the fences.

That's the whole point of the shift.  The defense wants Ortiz or whatever big slugger to swing differently.  They'll give up a single to put a slow runner on first instead of a HR or scorcher in the gap.


He's bunted away from the shift for a base hit more than once.
 
2014-05-20 09:29:56 AM  

WinoRhino: MugzyBrown: Marcus Aurelius: The most astounding thing about the shift is that a hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the fences.

That's the whole point of the shift.  The defense wants Ortiz or whatever big slugger to swing differently.  They'll give up a single to put a slow runner on first instead of a HR or scorcher in the gap.

He's bunted away from the shift for a base hit more than once.


Alternately, learn how to hit to the opposite field.  You're in the Major Leagues, presumably among the best in the game... play like it.
 
2014-05-20 09:29:57 AM  

Moopy Mac: Ichiro couldn't do that five times in a row.


Given Ichiro has a history of hitting the ball exactly where it should go? I wouldn't be so quick to say that. Hell Ichiro is the kind of hitter the shift is utterly pointless against.
 
2014-05-20 09:32:02 AM  
anyone read the headline and think "yeah I would bat better if I dropped a deuce first too..."
 
2014-05-20 09:50:44 AM  

WhyteRaven74: Given Ichiro has a history of hitting the ball exactly where it should go? I wouldn't be so quick to say that. Hell Ichiro is the kind of hitter the shift is utterly pointless against.


I believe that's his point.  While he does have enough bat control where a shift would be useless, even he would not have the level of control needed to out hit the shift that may times in a row.
That being said, it's actually his bunting that makes the shift against a player like Ichiro entirely useless.

Personally, the only time I don't think the shift is being thought all the way through is when they shift with a runner on first, and he is being held on.  You have 3 defenders on the the left side of the infield, and the only guy on the right is right on the line.  So essentially there is nobody on the right.  At least with a traditional shift the lone defender is in the middle, giving him quite a bit more range.
 
2014-05-20 09:53:53 AM  

Kuta: Moneyball sucked. Bring back power hitting.


Oh look, another guy who didn't read Moneyball and assumed it sucked.

/hint: power hitting was a part of the strategy
 
2014-05-20 10:01:22 AM  

mactheknife: WinoRhino: MugzyBrown: Marcus Aurelius: The most astounding thing about the shift is that a hitter could place a few swinging bunts toward the gap where the shortstop was, and eliminate the shift option.  But no, that's too simple, have to swing for the fences.

That's the whole point of the shift.  The defense wants Ortiz or whatever big slugger to swing differently.  They'll give up a single to put a slow runner on first instead of a HR or scorcher in the gap.

He's bunted away from the shift for a base hit more than once.

Alternately, learn how to hit to the opposite field.  You're in the Major Leagues, presumably among the best in the game... play like it.


I always love this response like it is a simple thing to do. If it was so easy then everybody would be batting .400. There is a reason why teams tend not to tinker too much with a person swing. Prime example is in the article when they are talking to McCann. He is trying to go the other way and change up his swing, and as a result he is sitting on the lowest batting average in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make him dump the whole experiment by mid season and go back to his old way. And by the way, when Ortiz was with the Twins they tried to make him into the type of hitter you are talking about, the result was that he sucked at it and they released him, then Boston picked him up and let him swing the way he naturally does.
 
2014-05-20 10:16:31 AM  

ongbok: I always love this response like it is a simple thing to do. If it was so easy then everybody would be batting .400. There is a reason why teams tend not to tinker too much with a person swing. Prime example is in the article when they are talking to McCann. He is trying to go the other way and change up his swing, and as a result he is sitting on the lowest batting average in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make him dump the whole experiment by mid season and go back to his old way. And by the way, when Ortiz was with the Twins they tried to make him into the type of hitter you are talking about, the result was that he sucked at it and they released him, then Boston picked him up and let him swing the way he naturally does.


Plus you're being pitched to try and force into the shift. It's not easy to hit a ball on your hands the opposite way.
 
2014-05-20 10:25:18 AM  

MugzyBrown: ongbok: I always love this response like it is a simple thing to do. If it was so easy then everybody would be batting .400. There is a reason why teams tend not to tinker too much with a person swing. Prime example is in the article when they are talking to McCann. He is trying to go the other way and change up his swing, and as a result he is sitting on the lowest batting average in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make him dump the whole experiment by mid season and go back to his old way. And by the way, when Ortiz was with the Twins they tried to make him into the type of hitter you are talking about, the result was that he sucked at it and they released him, then Boston picked him up and let him swing the way he naturally does.

Plus you're being pitched to try and force into the shift. It's not easy to hit a ball on your hands the opposite way.


I forgot to mention that.

But the funny thing about the shift is when they use it they only shift the infielders. The out fielders play straight up because most guys they use it on hit the ball to all fields in the air.
 
2014-05-20 10:25:39 AM  

MugzyBrown: ongbok: I always love this response like it is a simple thing to do. If it was so easy then everybody would be batting .400. There is a reason why teams tend not to tinker too much with a person swing. Prime example is in the article when they are talking to McCann. He is trying to go the other way and change up his swing, and as a result he is sitting on the lowest batting average in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make him dump the whole experiment by mid season and go back to his old way. And by the way, when Ortiz was with the Twins they tried to make him into the type of hitter you are talking about, the result was that he sucked at it and they released him, then Boston picked him up and let him swing the way he naturally does.

Plus you're being pitched to try and force into the shift. It's not easy to hit a ball on your hands the opposite way.


My point is that to make it to the Major Leagues, you should have the capability of hitting to all fields.  I didn't say it was easy; but at that level, it should be an essential skill.
 
2014-05-20 10:33:07 AM  

mactheknife: MugzyBrown: ongbok: I always love this response like it is a simple thing to do. If it was so easy then everybody would be batting .400. There is a reason why teams tend not to tinker too much with a person swing. Prime example is in the article when they are talking to McCann. He is trying to go the other way and change up his swing, and as a result he is sitting on the lowest batting average in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make him dump the whole experiment by mid season and go back to his old way. And by the way, when Ortiz was with the Twins they tried to make him into the type of hitter you are talking about, the result was that he sucked at it and they released him, then Boston picked him up and let him swing the way he naturally does.

Plus you're being pitched to try and force into the shift. It's not easy to hit a ball on your hands the opposite way.

My point is that to make it to the Major Leagues, you should have the capability of hitting to all fields.  I didn't say it was easy; but at that level, it should be an essential skill.


And the point is that you are dead wrong. To make it to the Majors you should be able to do what the team needs you to do. For Ortiz it is hit home runs. Hell some guys can't hit their way out of a wet paper bag to any filed, the only reason why they made it to the Majors is their defense.

And as I said before the strange thing for most of these guys they use the shift for is that they only pull the ball on the ground, they hit the ball in the air to all fields. That is why you almost always only see the infield shift and the outfield play straight up.
 
2014-05-20 10:33:54 AM  

mactheknife: MugzyBrown: ongbok: I always love this response like it is a simple thing to do. If it was so easy then everybody would be batting .400. There is a reason why teams tend not to tinker too much with a person swing. Prime example is in the article when they are talking to McCann. He is trying to go the other way and change up his swing, and as a result he is sitting on the lowest batting average in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make him dump the whole experiment by mid season and go back to his old way. And by the way, when Ortiz was with the Twins they tried to make him into the type of hitter you are talking about, the result was that he sucked at it and they released him, then Boston picked him up and let him swing the way he naturally does.

Plus you're being pitched to try and force into the shift. It's not easy to hit a ball on your hands the opposite way.

My point is that to make it to the Major Leagues, you should have the capability of hitting to all fields.  I didn't say it was easy; but at that level, it should be an essential skill.


Hitting against major league pitching is really hard. Even the best hitters struggle at it. I'm sure David Ortiz could knock an 85-mph college fastball in any direction he pleases. But against major league pitching, anything you ask of a hitter is easier said than done. It's best just to do what he does best and not mess up his swing, which took a lot of repetition to make consistent.
 
2014-05-20 11:25:58 AM  

ongbok: mactheknife: MugzyBrown: ongbok: I always love this response like it is a simple thing to do. If it was so easy then everybody would be batting .400. There is a reason why teams tend not to tinker too much with a person swing. Prime example is in the article when they are talking to McCann. He is trying to go the other way and change up his swing, and as a result he is sitting on the lowest batting average in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make him dump the whole experiment by mid season and go back to his old way. And by the way, when Ortiz was with the Twins they tried to make him into the type of hitter you are talking about, the result was that he sucked at it and they released him, then Boston picked him up and let him swing the way he naturally does.

Plus you're being pitched to try and force into the shift. It's not easy to hit a ball on your hands the opposite way.

My point is that to make it to the Major Leagues, you should have the capability of hitting to all fields.  I didn't say it was easy; but at that level, it should be an essential skill.

And the point is that you are dead wrong. To make it to the Majors you should be able to do what the team needs you to do. For Ortiz it is hit home runs. Hell some guys can't hit their way out of a wet paper bag to any filed, the only reason why they made it to the Majors is their defense.

And as I said before the strange thing for most of these guys they use the shift for is that they only pull the ball on the ground, they hit the ball in the air to all fields. That is why you almost always only see the infield shift and the outfield play straight up.


The other reason not to shift the outfield is that hitting a grounder against the shift gives up a single. Hitting a fly into the gap in a shifted outfield is a bases clearing double at best, and an inside the parker if the guy's in any way fast.

Anyways, it'll be interesting to see whether shifting forces teams to start valuing spray hitters over dead pull hitters. Giving up power for average starts to make sense when the pull guy'shiatting .200 on balls that don't clear the fence. Maybe Joey Votto's the new prototype: middling HR power but slashes doubles both ways and hits for a great average.
 
2014-05-20 11:39:02 AM  
First, this article was confusing as hell.  The numbers they should show are:
A) Batting average on (ground balls + bunts), LHB, into the shift.
B) Batting average on (ground balls + bunts), LHB, not into the shift.

mactheknife: My point is that to make it to the Major Leagues, you should have the capability of hitting to all fields. I didn't say it was easy; but at that level, it should be an essential skill.


1) Widespread use of the shift is a new innovation-- all of these players grew up playing a game where the infielders and outfielders might take a few steps to either side.

2) The simplest countermeasure is the bunt.  Inside Edge tracks this, and in 2012-2013, batters facing the shift got 90 bunts down and got 56 hits (.622) (*).  Bunting against the shift is up wildly this year, with similar success rates.  So why doesn't David Ortiz bunt every time?  (A hitter with a .622/.622/.622 slash line would be along the best offensive players in baseball, even though the 'singles' won't advance runners normally.)  Because he's terrible at it.  Why would he have ever practiced bunting in the last decade?  But sooner or later, the existence of the shift will make lefty sluggers have to spend time learning how to bunt.

3) So let's say David Ortiz decides he wants to hit the other way.  Now he's changing his swing, sacrificing his natural power, learning to bunt, and spending less time maintaining the skills that made him David Ortiz in the first place.  That's great for every other team.  Once your scouts tell you that Ortiz's spray chart is moving, go right back to conventional defense and see how long it takes him to 'un-learn' his new swing.

4) Even if the bunt looks good, the shift is still viable as a two-strike strategy.  Or with a runner on third, since the manager will not want to call a squeeze with someone who can't bunt well at the plate.

(*): They only count how the PA was decided, so this doesn't account for guys who try to bunt but fail to get it down, likely working themselves into a worse count before they tried their real swing.
 
2014-05-20 11:49:17 AM  
In other news, Brian McCann is terrible at math.
"The shift is going to take some hits away from you," McCann says. "But it shouldn't take two hits away from you a night. Better, consistent contact is what I need to be doing."

Really Brian?  You think the shift is taking away two hits a night from you?

McCann, 2014, Earth: 32-for-142, .225
McCann, 2014, a planet where no one shifts and he gets two extra hits per night: 108-for-142, .761.  Except it would be closer to "Intentionally walked every time."

I wonder how the shift made Brian McCann forget how to take a pitch.  He went from walking ~10% of the time last year (MLB average is ~8%)  to 4% this year.  He used to swing 29% of the time (right on MLB's average) at stuff outside the zone, now it's 33%.  And he's making more bad contact-- 10% infield fly balls last year, 15% this year.

That's not the shift, Brian.  That's you hacking at slop.
 
2014-05-20 12:06:41 PM  

chimp_ninja: In other news, Brian McCann is terrible at math.
"The shift is going to take some hits away from you," McCann says. "But it shouldn't take two hits away from you a night. Better, consistent contact is what I need to be doing."

Really Brian?  You think the shift is taking away two hits a night from you?

McCann, 2014, Earth: 32-for-142, .225
McCann, 2014, a planet where no one shifts and he gets two extra hits per night: 108-for-142, .761.  Except it would be closer to "Intentionally walked every time."

I wonder how the shift made Brian McCann forget how to take a pitch.  He went from walking ~10% of the time last year (MLB average is ~8%)  to 4% this year.  He used to swing 29% of the time (right on MLB's average) at stuff outside the zone, now it's 33%.  And he's making more bad contact-- 10% infield fly balls last year, 15% this year.

That's not the shift, Brian.  That's you hacking at slop.


Do you know of any good articles that compares hitters facing al east vs nl east pitching? I have to think there's asubstantial difference in quality.

/and thank you as always for good posts
 
2014-05-20 12:06:47 PM  

chimp_ninja: In other news, Brian McCann is terrible at math.
"The shift is going to take some hits away from you," McCann says. "But it shouldn't take two hits away from you a night. Better, consistent contact is what I need to be doing."

Really Brian?  You think the shift is taking away two hits a night from you?

McCann, 2014, Earth: 32-for-142, .225
McCann, 2014, a planet where no one shifts and he gets two extra hits per night: 108-for-142, .761.  Except it would be closer to "Intentionally walked every time."

I wonder how the shift made Brian McCann forget how to take a pitch.  He went from walking ~10% of the time last year (MLB average is ~8%)  to 4% this year.  He used to swing 29% of the time (right on MLB's average) at stuff outside the zone, now it's 33%.  And he's making more bad contact-- 10% infield fly balls last year, 15% this year.

That's not the shift, Brian.  That's you hacking at slop.


That is him trying to hit the ball the other way and not having a swing that is able to effectively do it. Just like he said in the article.
 
2014-05-20 12:10:49 PM  

ongbok: That is him trying to hit the ball the other way and not having a swing that is able to effectively do it. Just like he said in the article.


I'm just sad that Brian McCann never saw Bull Durham:

Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week - just one - a gorp... you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium. - Crash Davis
 
2014-05-20 12:10:58 PM  

RTOGUY: This is the kind of thrilling analysis that makes baseball such an exciting "sport".


It's not supposed to be exciting, until it is. If you need constant 24/7 stimulation, stick to video games.

/baseball still has more minutes of action than football
 
2014-05-20 12:40:11 PM  

chimp_ninja: First, this article was confusing as hell.


My favorite part is how they think a league wise batting average drop of a few points is a big deal, ignoring that 6 of the last 7 seasons have had at least a 2 point drop from the previous year.

Not to mention the fact that the summer will probably increase this season's offense a bit.
 
2014-05-20 12:50:52 PM  

SurfaceTension: It's not supposed to be exciting, until it is. If you need constant 24/7 stimulation, stick to video games.


The shift is one of those things that's fairly symbolic of how baseball works, too-- maybe 40% of hitters are lefties, maybe 70% of plate appearances end with with a ball in play, maybe half of those are grounders, you wouldn't shift in many scenarios (fast runner on second, etc.), not all lefties have a strong pull tendency, etc.

Because of all that, the shift is an innovation that, if you're lucky, is a net takeaway of one or two hits per week from some opponent.  (And maybe not even that-- the article seemed to consider grounders but not bunts.)  And even then, that one hit might be in the 8th inning of a 6-2 ballgame.  But once or twice a year, you generate an extra W.

It's the same thing as catcher 'framing' (techniques for deceiving the umpire into calling more strikes), running out every grounder, positioning your outfielders based on each hitter's individual tendencies, who should swing away on 3-0, platooning, defensive replacements, etc.

You do all of that for 162 games, and it's the cumulative difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.  No one "lucks" into the MLB playoffs.
 
2014-05-20 01:30:54 PM  

chimp_ninja: SurfaceTension: It's not supposed to be exciting, until it is. If you need constant 24/7 stimulation, stick to video games.

The shift is one of those things that's fairly symbolic of how baseball works, too-- maybe 40% of hitters are lefties, maybe 70% of plate appearances end with with a ball in play, maybe half of those are grounders, you wouldn't shift in many scenarios (fast runner on second, etc.), not all lefties have a strong pull tendency, etc.

Because of all that, the shift is an innovation that, if you're lucky, is a net takeaway of one or two hits per week from some opponent.  (And maybe not even that-- the article seemed to consider grounders but not bunts.)  And even then, that one hit might be in the 8th inning of a 6-2 ballgame.  But once or twice a year, you generate an extra W.

It's the same thing as catcher 'framing' (techniques for deceiving the umpire into calling more strikes), running out every grounder, positioning your outfielders based on each hitter's individual tendencies, who should swing away on 3-0, platooning, defensive replacements, etc.

You do all of that for 162 games, and it's the cumulative difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.  No one "lucks" into the MLB playoffs.


Sure they do, in a lot of ways. Just like that extra hit every week or two can get you into the playoffs or keep you out, so can the occasional bad bounce, missed call, or freak injury etc.

While the season length means baseball is less influenced by chance than ay other major sport and allows you to overcome any bad break, it is still there.
 
2014-05-20 01:43:48 PM  

dywed88: chimp_ninja: SurfaceTension: It's not supposed to be exciting, until it is. If you need constant 24/7 stimulation, stick to video games.

The shift is one of those things that's fairly symbolic of how baseball works, too-- maybe 40% of hitters are lefties, maybe 70% of plate appearances end with with a ball in play, maybe half of those are grounders, you wouldn't shift in many scenarios (fast runner on second, etc.), not all lefties have a strong pull tendency, etc.

Because of all that, the shift is an innovation that, if you're lucky, is a net takeaway of one or two hits per week from some opponent.  (And maybe not even that-- the article seemed to consider grounders but not bunts.)  And even then, that one hit might be in the 8th inning of a 6-2 ballgame.  But once or twice a year, you generate an extra W.

It's the same thing as catcher 'framing' (techniques for deceiving the umpire into calling more strikes), running out every grounder, positioning your outfielders based on each hitter's individual tendencies, who should swing away on 3-0, platooning, defensive replacements, etc.

You do all of that for 162 games, and it's the cumulative difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.  No one "lucks" into the MLB playoffs.

Sure they do, in a lot of ways. Just like that extra hit every week or two can get you into the playoffs or keep you out, so can the occasional bad bounce, missed call, or freak injury etc.

While the season length means baseball is less influenced by chance than ay other major sport and allows you to overcome any bad break, it is still there.


I'm a big believer that luck breaks about the same for everyone. It's having the ability to make the most of the good breaks while minimizing the damage of the bad ones that makes part of that difference.
 
2014-05-20 02:30:27 PM  

SurfaceTension: dywed88: chimp_ninja: SurfaceTension: It's not supposed to be exciting, until it is. If you need constant 24/7 stimulation, stick to video games.

The shift is one of those things that's fairly symbolic of how baseball works, too-- maybe 40% of hitters are lefties, maybe 70% of plate appearances end with with a ball in play, maybe half of those are grounders, you wouldn't shift in many scenarios (fast runner on second, etc.), not all lefties have a strong pull tendency, etc.

Because of all that, the shift is an innovation that, if you're lucky, is a net takeaway of one or two hits per week from some opponent.  (And maybe not even that-- the article seemed to consider grounders but not bunts.)  And even then, that one hit might be in the 8th inning of a 6-2 ballgame.  But once or twice a year, you generate an extra W.

It's the same thing as catcher 'framing' (techniques for deceiving the umpire into calling more strikes), running out every grounder, positioning your outfielders based on each hitter's individual tendencies, who should swing away on 3-0, platooning, defensive replacements, etc.

You do all of that for 162 games, and it's the cumulative difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.  No one "lucks" into the MLB playoffs.

Sure they do, in a lot of ways. Just like that extra hit every week or two can get you into the playoffs or keep you out, so can the occasional bad bounce, missed call, or freak injury etc.

While the season length means baseball is less influenced by chance than ay other major sport and allows you to overcome any bad break, it is still there.

I'm a big believer that luck breaks about the same for everyone. It's having the ability to make the most of the good breaks while minimizing the damage of the bad ones that makes part of that difference.


In the long run, it is true. And I agree that the best teams are the ones that can overcome bad breaks. But in a single season or a playoff series random chance can certainly be a factor.

The obvious one being getting stuck in a really strong or a really weak division. Over a decade or so it evens up, but if the Angels had been in the Central in 2012, they easily make the playoffs.

Sure, the situation will likely be reversed at some point in the next decade but for one season it certainly matterred.
 
2014-05-20 06:03:24 PM  

dywed88: SurfaceTension: dywed88: chimp_ninja: SurfaceTension: It's not supposed to be exciting, until it is. If you need constant 24/7 stimulation, stick to video games.

The shift is one of those things that's fairly symbolic of how baseball works, too-- maybe 40% of hitters are lefties, maybe 70% of plate appearances end with with a ball in play, maybe half of those are grounders, you wouldn't shift in many scenarios (fast runner on second, etc.), not all lefties have a strong pull tendency, etc.

Because of all that, the shift is an innovation that, if you're lucky, is a net takeaway of one or two hits per week from some opponent.  (And maybe not even that-- the article seemed to consider grounders but not bunts.)  And even then, that one hit might be in the 8th inning of a 6-2 ballgame.  But once or twice a year, you generate an extra W.

It's the same thing as catcher 'framing' (techniques for deceiving the umpire into calling more strikes), running out every grounder, positioning your outfielders based on each hitter's individual tendencies, who should swing away on 3-0, platooning, defensive replacements, etc.

You do all of that for 162 games, and it's the cumulative difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.  No one "lucks" into the MLB playoffs.

Sure they do, in a lot of ways. Just like that extra hit every week or two can get you into the playoffs or keep you out, so can the occasional bad bounce, missed call, or freak injury etc.

While the season length means baseball is less influenced by chance than ay other major sport and allows you to overcome any bad break, it is still there.

I'm a big believer that luck breaks about the same for everyone. It's having the ability to make the most of the good breaks while minimizing the damage of the bad ones that makes part of that difference.

In the long run, it is true. And I agree that the best teams are the ones that can overcome bad breaks. But in a single season or a playoff series random chance can certa ...


This link might be interesting for this whole conversation:

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/god_and_500/
 
2014-05-20 06:16:58 PM  
Learn to do what this dude did. He did it in the era of the dead, doctored ball:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Keeler
 
2014-05-20 08:27:50 PM  

Northern Claw: Learn to do what this dude did. He did it in the era of the dead, doctored ball:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Keeler


When most pitchers probably didn't break 80 mph, pitches like the slider/splitter/sinker weren't invented yet, the defenders used gloves that were barely bigger than their hands, and starters like Jack Chesbro were throwing 400+ innings in a season.

Nowadays, precision place hitting is more or less impossible.

Also keep in mind that when the shift is on, pitchers are trying to jam lefties inside precisely so it's hard to hit to the opposite field.  You risk them turning on one and belting it, but to do that, the hitter risks putting one on the ground into a pile of infielders.
 
2014-05-21 09:49:20 AM  

chimp_ninja: SurfaceTension: It's not supposed to be exciting, until it is. If you need constant 24/7 stimulation, stick to video games.

The shift is one of those things that's fairly symbolic of how baseball works, too-- maybe 40% of hitters are lefties, maybe 70% of plate appearances end with with a ball in play, maybe half of those are grounders, you wouldn't shift in many scenarios (fast runner on second, etc.), not all lefties have a strong pull tendency, etc.

Because of all that, the shift is an innovation that, if you're lucky, is a net takeaway of one or two hits per week from some opponent.  (And maybe not even that-- the article seemed to consider grounders but not bunts.)  And even then, that one hit might be in the 8th inning of a 6-2 ballgame.  But once or twice a year, you generate an extra W.

It's the same thing as catcher 'framing' (techniques for deceiving the umpire into calling more strikes), running out every grounder, positioning your outfielders based on each hitter's individual tendencies, who should swing away on 3-0, platooning, defensive replacements, etc.

You do all of that for 162 games, and it's the cumulative difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.  No one "lucks" into the MLB playoffs.


You can luck into the playoffs; I present the 2012 Baltimore Orioles. They went 93-69, but should have been closer to 82-80 based on run differential. They had an absurd record in 1-run games and grabbed the Wild Card behind Chris Davis suddenly figuring out how to hit and the late-season call-up of a 19-year-old AA SS who became the 2nd coming of Brooks Robinson. I waited all year for them to regress to the mean, but they were surprisingly stubborn!

Your larger point is correct, though. Luck, by definition should even out on average such that, on the timescale of a full season, a team's record and an individual's stats will be most strongly correlated to skill-based variables.
 
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