Baseball’s defensive shift

Major League Baseball and the defensive shift
Spring weather and baseball…a great time of year indeed. With the 2017 baseball season underway fans are seeing a common event – the defensive shift. As a baseball fan I don’t love “the shift”, but understand why teams do it.

For those of you who don’t follow baseball; teams have incorporated a defensive strategy that involves moving infielders to non-traditional locations based on the tendencies of the batter. This strategy began a few years ago and now is a common occurrence. Many baseball fans and announcers do not like the shift (it just feels wrong).

The reality is baseball teams have been doing some form of the shift since the beginning of baseball. For example; a third baseman would play closer to home plate if he thought the batter would bunt and at my son’s little league game the coach tells outfielders to “back up” when a good hitter steps to the plate – these are forms of the shift. The difference is past shifts were based on experience and the wisdom of elders, today’s shifts come from data and statistical analysis.
As a Lean Six Sigma guy, I like making decisions based on data. I can’t help but respect the evolution of baseball to incorporate historical data and trend analysis for decision making. Its a new era.
For the non-baseball business person reading this, “the shift” must sound perfectly logical: “So you’re telling me teams are analyzing their competitors and making adjustments to gain a competitive advantage, ummm…isn’t that what they are supposed to do?”. Businesses are constantly using data to position their resources for maximum sales (a form of “the shift”). Maybe baseball has just caught up to society.
The more I see the shift the more I’m getting used to it, and to be completely honest; I like it when it helps my team win. #real-talk
Play ball!