There are some interesting facts from an article by Jason Stark in The Athletic that I’ll share over the next few days.
The article was about numbers, and about the trends those numbers suggest. Some of which are pretty surprising, some are a bit depressing.
The first was about defensive shifting.
Teams employed the shift on fewer than twenty percent of at-bats in 2018. But there were nearly 8,000 at-bats where a shift was employed, which is a thirty percent increase from 2017.
Left handed hitters had a nineteen percent chance of reaching base when they pulled a ball on the ground between first and second, whether it be by hit or error. In 2011, it was .235. This might help explain why so many players are just swinging for the fences now. They can’t get on base by pulling the ball and they can’t go the other way, so they will just swing out of their shoes.
The ball was put into play eight hundred fewer times in 2018 than the previous season. That’s because for the thirteenth year in a row, strikeouts increased. 2018 had, for the first time in baseball history, more strikeouts than hits, and the fewest balls put into play ever.
It’s what I call the Joey Gallo-ization of baseball.
So, do you outlaw the shift? Or do you wait until hitters quit being stubborn and start figuring out how to beat the shift?
The answer will come when players’ salaries start falling, when they stop getting fat paydays just for hitting home runs, when making contact means making contract.
Only then will players change.