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Beating the shift out of them

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What all this talk about making rules about the infield shift could mean for the Padres.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, new commissioner Rob Manfred made waves talking about a potential change to the rules to get rid of infield shifts. If you want a hot take on whether or not such a rule should be implemented then I recommend the SBNation piece: The stupidity of eliminating defensive shifts by Grant Brisbee. What I thought us over at little Gaslamp Ball could take a look at is how the shift impacted the Padres.

In September Steve Moyer over at the Wall Street Journal wrote an article where he had a ranking of each team based on how many hits they saved in 2014 by employing the shift:

2014 hits saved shift

The Padres rank just below the average by this metric, but an article by CBS Sports' Mike Axisa pointed out something interesting: the Padres saved a hit once per every 31.1 shifts, which ranked 6th among teams that actually saved hits by shifting. So by that shifts/hits-saved metric the Padres are shown to be pretty efficient at saving hits when they do shift. Maybe they should be shifting more.

On the other side of the ball, I can't find any data for 2014 on how Padres hitters were affected by shifts. There is some 2013 data that the Hardball Times times released in this handy google doc. I pulled out of a few of the names that either played for the Padres in 2013, will play for the Padres in 2015, did play for the Padres in 2014, but not in 2013 or were somehow Padres related and interesting to look at:

Name Bats Times Hit into Major Shift BABIP w/ Shift On BABIP w/o Shift On BABIP
Anthony Rizzo L 102 0.235 0.269 0.257
Adrian Gonzalez L 77 0.234 0.332 0.313
Seth Smith L 74 0.257 0.339 0.311
Yonder Alonso L 39 0.359 0.288 0.301
Chase Headley B 39 0.308 0.327 0.321
Will Venable L 15 0.200 0.299 0.312
Carlos Quentin R 13 0.539 0.306 0.320
Matt Kemp R 10 0.300 0.353 0.350
Wil Myers R 10 0.100 0.350 0.362
Ryan Ludwick R 9 0.111 0.305 0.276
Mark Kotsay L 8 0.125 0.237 0.223
Will Middlebrooks R 8 0.750 0.255 0.274
Jedd Gyorko R 6 0.500 0.288 0.287
Justin Upton R 5 0.200 0.313 0.310
Kyle Blanks R 3 0.000 0.311 0.328
Alexi Amarista L 3 0.333 0.255 0.267
Logan Forsythe R 2 1.000 0.227 0.247
Nick Hundley R 1 0.000 0.289 0.286
Yasmani Grandal B 1 0.000 0.279 0.278
Derek Norris R 1 0.000 0.299 0.299

If you are having trouble reading this data, what you would expect to see is that if the shift was working the "BABIP w/ Shift On" column should be a lower number than both "BABIP w/o Shift On" and "BABIP". The "BABIP w/o Shift On" should also be higher than "BABIP". If it is not, then the shift was not working. One that stands out is Yonder Alonso. In 2013, shifting on him did not get a good result. It seems he could beat the shift out of you if you did.

I'm not really sure what kind of effectiveness a shift against a right handed hitter is, so you can take those numbers with a grain of salt. That probably also goes for switch hitters like Chase Headley, who seemed to get hits on balls in play at a good clip whether there was or was not a shift. In 2015 the Padres' only left handed regular hitters look like they will be Yonder Alonso and Alexi Amarista, with Will Venable getting some not-insignificant number of at bats. So the shift should not be a big deal for this crew.