Feb 16, 2014; Jupiter, FL, USA; Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) finished stretching during spring training at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Marlins New Additions Battled Infield Shifts


Thanks to some of the more sabermetrically inclined teams, like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, infield shifts have become increasingly popular over the last few seasons.  I had always assumed that these teams must be employing the shifts because they had good evidence to support the strategy, but always wondered how much of a difference it really made.  Well, some of the evidence has now been shared as the good people at HarballTimes.com just released some very cool data on infield shifts in 2013.

The data is based on the number of times a ball was put in play when a shift was being employed and the resulting batting average on balls in play (BABIP) from those occasions as opposed to when no infield shift was employed.  The Marlins, not being particularly known for their sabermetric inclinations, ranked 20th of the 30 teams in opportunities or number of times a ball was put in play while a shift was employed.  However, they ranked as the 8th most successful team in terms of decrease in BABIP when the infield shift was employed.  Here are the Marlins stats:

Team

Total

BABIP w/ Shift On

BABIP w/o Shift On

Diff

Marlins

122

.271

.300

-.029

 

The Baltimore Orioles led baseball in opportunities with 470 and the Anaheim Angels were the most effective team by decreasing 75 batting average points on balls in play.

As far as data on individual players, two of the newest Marlins are featured pretty prominently in the analysis.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia had the 15th most opportunities against a shift in the major leagues in 2013.  This is increasingly significant when you consider that Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter and the shift was probably only employed when he was hitting lefthanded.  As a member of the Red Sox he faced the top two shift teams in baseball, the Orioles and Rays, 19 times each.  Unfortunately, he did not fare too well against the shift:

Player

Total

BABIP w/ Shift On

BABIP w/o Shift On

Diff

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

119

.286

.427

-.141

 

Garrett Jones faced the 29th most opportunities hitting against the shift with 89 opportunities.  Jones was played in a pretty strict platoon role with the Pirates, which is likely the role he will eventually fall into with the Marlins as well.  The good news is that Jones was even better against the shift than when no shift was employed.

Player

Total

BABIP w/ Shift On

BABIP w/o Shift On

Diff

Garrett Jones

89

.303

.271

.032

 

Luckily for Salty and maybe not so for Jones, the National League East appears to be the least infield shifty division in all of baseball.  As mentioned, the Marlins had just the 20th most opportunities, but that was more than the Braves (22nd), Phillies (29th) and the Nationals (30th, last).  The Mets were the division’s top shifting team and ranked 16th.

It will be interesting to note how often opposing teams employ a shift when facing Salty and Jones.  Could getting away from the AL East and all of those infield shifts actually help Saltalamacchia’s stats with the Marlins?

Tags: Featured Garrett Jones Jarrod Saltalamacchia Miami Marlins Popular

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