This post is inspired by this fine post, which was inspired by this fine post. While this post would be more interesting with more data (pre-2013, is it out there?), I invite you to look a little bit more at how infield shifts might be affecting some players who changed teams this offseason.
The teams of the NL East, as noted by scotman144, conservatively used infield shifts in 2013, combining to just simply match the league’s most furious shifters, the Orioles. The NL in general avoided shifting, as NL teams combined for 9 of the bottom 10 spots in the Jeff Zimmerman-provided rankings. So perhaps, if all of these teams continue their shift-cynical ways, the ideas which I am about to hypothesize will hold merit.
I filtered the data on “WHICH PLAYERS HIT INTO THE MOST SHIFTS AND THE EFFECT ON THEIR BABIP?” to find out which players had the greatest discrepancy between BABIP with shift on vs BABIP with shift off. Then I limited the data to only those who had more than a few times having hit into the shift. Obviously small sample sizes are at play here so it would be nice to look at 2012 and prior data as well.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit into the shift 90 times last year with a 0.300 BABIP. His non-shift BABIP? .416. So perhaps his BABIP luck last year will regress, but so may his number of times seeing a shift, which could be good for his prospects in Miami.
Curtis Granderson missed a lot of time last year but when he did play he almost constantly got the shaft, er I mean shift. I wonder if he realized how much this was hurting his BABIP (shifted BABIP = 0.256, career BABIP = .303) and consciously moved to the NL East for this reason. If so, kudos to him or his agent.
Seth Smith also got shifted on quite a bit, at the tune of a .257 BABIP with shifts on. He hit an astounding .339 without the shift. Lastly I’d like to mention Robinson Cano, who, despite being shifted on 85 times last year, barely saw any noticeable difference in his BABIP with or without the shift. Take that shift! I’d like to see Cano try to grow a beard now that he’s out from under the the fascist anti-beard boot of the Yankees.
Do you want some more AL East shift data to chew on? Well take out your Red Man and munch on this: Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano didn’t quite like their experiences of getting shifted on. Carlos got it 71 times for a .268 BABIP, where Fonz got it 62 times for a .274 BABIP. Both of these players should see nice HR bumps but let’s not discount the potential for a low shift-related BABIP for these players moving to the AL East full-time. I expect AL East teams to continue to shift aggressively — the data suggests they all ought to be doing it more. Perhaps this is the year NL teams start to shift more as well, but you never know?