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Defensive shifts

Jul 17, 2012
114
18
Kenmore, WA
I think the biggest reason you don't see more shifts is the lack of quality data on where the hitters will hit the ball against a specific type of pitcher. In the MLB every hit is tracked and they get 600 PA per season. Huge amounts of data are readily available. Even in college softball where the most data is available a player only gets 225 PA max in a season. With a four year career limit there just isn't enough data to be sure the shift will work. Additionally, I think egos are smaller in softball and if you put on a shift that left the whole left side of the infield open the hitters happily drop a bunt for a base hit. It pisses me off that MLB hitters won't bunt against the shift.

I have data going back years on my players, so if I were playing against them I could shift on some of them and do so quite effectively. No one else has that data, so they can't shift with any confidence.
 
Jun 6, 2016
875
28
Chicago
I think the biggest reason you don't see more shifts is the lack of quality data on where the hitters will hit the ball against a specific type of pitcher. In the MLB every hit is tracked and they get 600 PA per season. Huge amounts of data are readily available. Even in college softball where the most data is available a player only gets 225 PA max in a season. With a four year career limit there just isn't enough data to be sure the shift will work. Additionally, I think egos are smaller in softball and if you put on a shift that left the whole left side of the infield open the hitters happily drop a bunt for a base hit. It pisses me off that MLB hitters won't bunt against the shift.

I have data going back years on my players, so if I were playing against them I could shift on some of them and do so quite effectively. No one else has that data, so they can't shift with any confidence.
This is what I suspected: Lack of data makes it difficult. I'm sure we haven't seen drastic shifting trickle down to high school baseball, for example.

But I figured it was worth asking, since every now and then there's a baseball thing that I learn just doesn't work as well or is different in softball because of the differences in the games.
 
Nov 30, 2018
17
0
This is what I suspected: Lack of data makes it difficult. I'm sure we haven't seen drastic shifting trickle down to high school baseball, for example.

But I figured it was worth asking, since every now and then there's a baseball thing that I learn just doesn't work as well or is different in softball because of the differences in the games.
I agree on both the softball and baseball side - too many coaches will shade or shift players in the field based on "came to you last time!" or "went down the line last time" as if one or two at-bats tells us anything about a hitters' longterm habits.

From my perspective as a pitcher for a many years, I was more concerned about the hitter's build, bat speed, swing path, hands, power, etc. You can piece together what a hitter is and is not capable of after just a few at-bats and make more sensible decisions based on that. Coupled with pitching sensibly to a pitcher's strengths first, then a hitters' weaknesses, you can start to control weaker hitters' potential outcomes and then shift players slightly if it makes sense.
 
Oct 3, 2011
2,815
0
Right Here For Now
I agree on both the softball and baseball side - too many coaches will shade or shift players in the field based on "came to you last time!" or "went down the line last time" as if one or two at-bats tells us anything about a hitters' longterm habits.

From my perspective as a pitcher for a many years, I was more concerned about the hitter's build, bat speed, swing path, hands, power, etc. You can piece together what a hitter is and is not capable of after just a few at-bats and make more sensible decisions based on that. Coupled with pitching sensibly to a pitcher's strengths first, then a hitters' weaknesses, you can start to control weaker hitters' potential outcomes and then shift players slightly if it makes sense.
CDB, while I would agree with your overall assessment, what it comes down to what Quincy and you have have said; it all comes down to scouting in order to know the hitters tendencies and weaknesses in their swings. Often times, especially in SB TB tourneys, it's unavailable for several reasons. At times, teams will be playing simultaneously with future teams playing. Also, there are many new teams that they haven't played before in tournaments and have no knowledge of. Granted, there's a coaching network or grapevine where we will pass along these types of things but nowhere near what I'm sure you are used to. The "intelligence," that you are used to seeing is just unavailable to us. Many times, we only see one or two at bats in a single tournament against a particular team and players/or and might never see them again the rest of the year. So it's up to us as coaches to play the percentages against such teams and batters.
 
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Ken Krause

Administrator
Admin
May 7, 2008
3,455
48
Mundelein, IL
I did it once or twice when there was something obvious in a hitter's swing, but as others have said you really don't get the type of quality data in volume you need to create accurate predictions.

One time I do remember doing it was against a left-handed hitter who was clearly going to pull the ball or not do much with it at all. i had my SS shift to directly behind 2B, and had the 3B move halfway between 2 and 3. My SS looked at me like I was nuts, but she obediently did as she was told. The girl popped up right to her right at the edge of the grass. Probably would've dropped in for a hit, or at least have been a spectacular play to get it if she was playing normally. But in this case it was a can of corn. She just smiled as she came in, one of those "Guess you knew what you were doing after all" smiles. But the reason I remember it was it was the exception.

To accumulate the kind of data you'd need for reliable predictive analytics, you'd need lots of at-bats, and you'd have to have them broken down by pitchers with similar characteristics, i.e., throws 62, drop ball is strong, change is X mph off the FB, etc. Unlikely you're going to get enough data for each of those types of pitchers to match up with your pitching staff. You'd have to know what pitch the pitcher threw for each hit, again with enough data to differentiate between luck and skill. Unless you have a pitcher like Lowary who everyone hits the same against you're probably going to do yourself more harm than good trying to figure it out. And the second that kid gets a lucky hit in an area you had your fielders vacate out will come the torches and pitchforks.

I think the smaller field in softball has something to do with it as well. There isn't as much need to shift when you don't have as much ground to cover.

And I agree that ego (or contract incentives) is part of it in baseball too. I remember being at a game where the third base line was left wide open on a lefty with a big shift. As soon as I saw that I said he should drop a bunt down the third base line and that will be the end of the shift. Instead he swung away and grounded out. Every. Single. Time. I think more MLB hitters are starting to make those adjustments now as they realize one more single a week, no matter how you get it, can be the difference between .250 and .300.

 
Nov 30, 2018
17
0
CDB, while I would agree with your overall assessment, what it comes down to what Quincy and you have have said; it all comes down to scouting in order to know the hitters tendencies and weaknesses in their swings. Often times, especially in SB TB tourneys, it's unavailable for several reasons. At times, teams will be playing simultaneously with future teams playing. Also, there are many new teams that they haven't played before in tournaments and have no knowledge of. Granted, there's a coaching network or grapevine where we will pass along these types of things but nowhere near what I'm sure you are used to. The "intelligence," that you are used to seeing is just unavailable to us. Many times, we only see one or two at bats in a single tournament against a particular team and players/or and might never see them again the rest of the year. So it's up to us as coaches to play the percentages against such teams and batters.
The key phrase in the paragraph you quoted me one was "after just a few at-bats." All of that "intelligence" as you called it is stuff any player or coach can assess on the fly, during a game. Everything I mentioned is available to any person who is involved in the game, though each person's specific viewpoint will vary. Watch the hitters their first time through the lineup, and you'll be able to discern much of what I mentioned - body type, stance, stride, hands, swing path, their look of aggressiveness or timidness, etc. etc. There's more free information than people realize, it's just whether folks are assessing it. You don't need as much batted ball data as you might think to start forming a gameplan right away. No intelligence or prior scouting is required.
 
May 17, 2012
1,930
48
Watch the hitters their first time through the lineup, and you'll be able to discern much of what I mentioned - body type, stance, stride, hands, swing path, their look of aggressiveness or timidness, etc. etc. There's more free information than people realize, it's just whether folks are assessing it. You don't need as much batted ball data as you might think to start forming a gameplan right away. No intelligence or prior scouting is required.
So your analysis comes down to the "eye ball" test? You can just see it can you?

Do you think that MLB teams throw out their scouting reports and data because why would you need it when you can just watch the hitters tendencies?

Nonsense.
 
Nov 30, 2018
17
0
So your analysis comes down to the "eye ball" test? You can just see it can you?

Do you think that MLB teams throw out their scouting reports and data because why would you need it when you can just watch the hitters tendencies?

Nonsense.
Why did you respond in such a rude and defensive way? Nowhere did I say scouting reports and data were useless.

And yes - pitchers and catchers make ALL of the final pitch calls based on ALL tools available to them, especially the hitter's previous swing. When I threw a pitch, the hitter gave me information on how he could handle it. You take that live, in-game info and add it to everything else you know about him (from scouting reports) and make the best decision possible on the next pitch. Scouting reports are guidelines, and many of the games's best pitchers in both sports don't even use them (Chris Sale, Mark Buerhle are/were great examples). It's the human.

I pitched professionally for a long time, and I never discount my eyes especially when I DIDNT have any scouting reports to go by. When you know nothing about a hitter...it's the eye test, which tells me lots and lots and lots of data...my own scouting report.

In fact, I spoke on this in front of hundreds of scouts and data analysts and received lots of positive feedback. This speech was about how pitchers actually select pitches. Watch it here if you want to understand the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0V4NlCkZJ0

I wasn't being rude to you, that's for sure. You should consider not lashing out at strangers who are merely contributing to a discussion.
 
Oct 4, 2018
544
43
My HC and I found this to be very informative and helpful when we first started coaching rec ball many years ago.

Winning 10U Defensive Strategy

We kept up that with our now 10U travel team. We've made a lot of outs at first base from RF because of it. I wouldn't call it a shift of course, but just playing the odds. If nothing else, it's a nice read for new coaches of very young girls. Probably second nature to most people here.

We're still new to travel and still needing girls to step up in some key positions. We make more errors than I care to admit and it's infuriating. I keep that bottled up.
 
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Jun 6, 2016
875
28
Chicago
My HC and I found this to be very informative and helpful when we first started coaching rec ball many years ago.

Winning 10U Defensive Strategy

We kept up that with our now 10U travel team. We've made a lot of outs at first base from RF because of it. I wouldn't call it a shift of course, but just playing the odds. If nothing else, it's a nice read for new coaches of very young girls. Probably second nature to most people here.

We're still new to travel and still needing girls to step up in some key positions. We make more errors than I care to admit and it's infuriating. I keep that bottled up.
The sad part is I saw "10U defensive strategy" and immediately thought, without even looking, "This could probably work for our HS games."

Edit: OK, I read it, and some of it doesn't apply (obviously I have to put a good infielder at shortstop, for example), but some of it 100% will work. I'm trying to think of the number of times our RF has had a ball hit over her head in the past couple years, and I can think of one giant RH hitter who loves hitting to right center. And maybe a lefty hitter or two. But I am definitely playing my RF too deep most of the time.
 
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