This season the San Francisco Giants deployed the extreme infield shift quite often. Per Baseball Info Solutions, the Giants were shifted on 361 balls in play during the regular season, which a) was fourth-most in the National League, and b) more than doubled their total in 2013. In Game 3, they probably swiped a couple of singles from the Royals in the first five innings. Meanwhile, Travis Ishikawa lost a single to the Royals’ extreme shift.
Are you sensing a theme here? Teams are shifting a LOT more this season. And it seems to be working. According to BIS’s John Dewan, shifts were way up in 2012, way up again in 2013, and way up yet once more in 2014. This year, there were 13,296 shifts. Dewan:
As you can see, the more shifts deployed in Major League Baseball, the more runs are saved. And the lowly Astros with their 92 losses? They had the highest total of Shift Runs Saved by a wide margin. They saved 27 runs on their 1,341 shifts. The next best team was the Toronto Blue Jays with 16 runs saved on 686 shifts.
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So the answer to all of this is: Shift or get off the pot! Maybe that should have been the tile of this article. If you want to save runs, shift. Simple as that. And the more you shift, the more you save. Despite all the shifting that is already done in baseball, many teams are still leaving runs on the table by not committing even more to this strategy.
The example of the Astros does suggest that teams can do a lot more of it. And probably will, until those stubborn hitters finally do something about it.