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Thread: Article: The Twins Considering a Shift in Strategy

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    Owner Big-Leaguer Parker Hageman's Avatar
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    Article: The Twins Considering a Shift in Strategy

    @OverTheBaggy

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    glunn (01-15-2014)

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    OK, color me skeptical. I'm sure it works in certain circumstances but not in others. Another factor not discussed is that pitchers have to be able to pitch to the proper spot in relation to the shift - the old pitch them away, play them away, etc. If you don't hit your spots, the shift just puts people out of position. Baseball has been played for a very long time and while we have greater raw data now, its really the professional sport that has changed the least over time.

    The current obsession with strikeouts is another example. I think we all agree that it is very handy to have a pitcher with the ability to strike someone out with a man on third and one out. I'm pretty sure Connie Mack, et al were smart enough to figure this out as well. There are many parts to the success equation, whether it is pitching or defense.

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    English teacher says: tactic

    I clicked on this article to see if the Twins indeed had embarked on a new "strategy", which they haven't. Sounds like they are considering a new tactic, on defense, against certain hitters.

    A strategy would involve something more substantive, like paying significant money to FA pitchers, or rebuilding using the draft and not trading any of their blue-chip minor leaguers, or relying more on power hitters vs speed and being willing to lead the majors in SOs.

    My problem with their "strategy" is that they don't seem to have settled on one. Not speed, not power, not pitching and defense, and certainly not trying to score more runs.

    So, moving their infield around on guys like Prince Fielder, if that is indeed their new strategy, well Heaven help us. It will be another long season. I'd love to have a photo of their infield shift for Prince and when he jacks it, capturing all three heads turning to watch the moon shot at the same time. Great example of how that strategy can fail by dint of not being substantive enough.

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    Pixel Monkey MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    “The game has changed so much; we’re seeing more overshifts and people not afraid to give up space based on tendencies, so it’s something I’m excited about learning about and applying to the way we play defense,” Molitor told Bollinger this week.

    And this is why I want to see Paul Molitor become the next Twins manager. He is one of the few players who got better well into his 30s, indicating that he's open to new ideas and adapting to the environment. He just exudes baseball smarts and this comment just reinforces that opinion.

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    Super Moderator MVP ashburyjohn's Avatar
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    Getting better, or at least tackling a new challenge, at age 57 is what he would have to do as a manager, since he's pretty old for getting a first job in the big chair.

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    Senior Member All-Star Willihammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
    OK, color me skeptical. I'm sure it works in certain circumstances but not in others. Another factor not discussed is that pitchers have to be able to pitch to the proper spot in relation to the shift - the old pitch them away, play them away, etc. If you don't hit your spots, the shift just puts people out of position. Baseball has been played for a very long time and while we have greater raw data now, its really the professional sport that has changed the least over time.
    Left-right pitch location isn't a huge a factor. The physics involved are a little counterintuitive, but in general balls on the ground will go to the middle-pull direction, and balls in the air will go middle-away, regardless of the left-right location of the pitch. Every shift I've seen an exaggeration of this tendency, and not the reverse.

    The positioning penalty might come when a fielder has to turn a double play or field a c utoff throw (the things James brought up). I have no idea how often that is a factor but I suspect they are overwhelmed by the added putouts and plays made.

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    I really didn't think Ryan and company had it in them to adapt to a new age of baseball and I over-emphasized that point many times. I'm glad to see I'm wrong. Even if defensive shifts don't work, there certainly isn't any evidence that they hurt, so why not give it a shot.

    I like the part about the pitchers not being sure about the shift. No kidding, they don't like seeing holes behind them. This quote by Jim Johnson tells me either the Orioles don't know what they're doing or Johnson just doesn't understand:

    "If you’re shifting on a number 8 hitter, just because [the numbers] say he grounds out to the right side, and you’ve got a guy throwing 99mph that he’s probably not going to turn around, then why are you shifting?”

    A truely analytical teams don't just shift players to the left or right simply by which side of the plate the batter stands. I doubt a manager would shift much in this kind of situation.

  14. #8
    Big difference between shading and shifting. Here's a shift from last years playoffs:

    http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/58922774/v31072427/al-wc-loney-gets-swisher-cuts-off-runner-at-home/?query=2013%2Bwild%2Bcard%2Btampa


    On a shift play like this, the pitcher would break to cover third on a ground ball and not to first. And this is just one situation of any number of them. Much of it is baseball sense and I have my doubts that Plouffe or any given pitcher in a given situation could be trained to consistently pull off good shift plays.

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    Senior Member All-Star TheLeviathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post

    And this is why I want to see Paul Molitor become the next Twins manager. He is one of the few players who got better well into his 30s, indicating that he's open to new ideas and adapting to the environment. He just exudes baseball smarts and this comment just reinforces that opinion.
    I'm glad I read the comments first because I was about to post the same thing. I'm heavily in the camp for Molly as our future manager.

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    Pixel Monkey MVP Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
    I'm glad I read the comments first because I was about to post the same thing. I'm heavily in the camp for Molly as our future manager.
    There is a lot to be said for a guy who is in his late 50s who has been in professional baseball for 40 years and is still open to learning new things and trying new ideas.

    Not all new ideas are good ones but they must be explored to test their legitimacy. I have no patience for people who believe in doing things "because that's the way they've always been done". It shows a lack of critical thinking and complacency and frankly, a lack of intelligence.

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    Parker;'s article has the table listing the major league average percentage of outs on ground balls is 77.3%. The Orioles and Pirates, two teams listed as frequent over shifters had less than average outs on ground balls. Would the data indicate they are poor fielders and the shifting compensates for that? Just asking.

    The Bill James article from last season stated that there were about 100 players that the shift was likely to be effective for. Shifting can be an important tool, but 100 players makes it a limited option.
    Last edited by old nurse; 01-15-2014 at 04:31 PM.

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    I understand it is intuitive that if you shift your infielders you would want to pitch them according to that shift but really, since the shift is based on the batters tendencies of how you normally pitch him, pitching him differently will create a whole new history of tendencies. For example, you don't want to pitch a left handed pull power hitter inside just cuz your fielders are there. Likely, his tendency to hit ground balls to the right side were a result of pitching him outside off speed pitches. I know its easier said than done but the pitcher should not be adjusting his approach just because the fielders change their approach.

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    I've been skeptical on "Molly" as the manager in 2015 and going forward but reading all of the positives about him willing to adapt I now think that is the way for the franchise to go. And boot Gardy up to V.P. also.

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    Owner Big-Leaguer Parker Hageman's Avatar
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    I clicked on this article to see if the Twins indeed had embarked on a new "strategy", which they haven't. Sounds like they are considering a new tactic, on defense, against certain hitters.

    A strategy would involve something more substantive, like paying significant money to FA pitchers, or rebuilding using the draft and not trading any of their blue-chip minor leaguers, or relying more on power hitters vs speed and being willing to lead the majors in SOs.
    First: Stop it.

    Second: Point taken.

    Last: Seriously, though, stop it.
    @OverTheBaggy

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    "...batted ball data broken down to minutia..." Nice phrase Parker, loaded with meaning. I agree with James that this is a passing fad for all but a few batters. James says 100 or so but I think there's only about 25 guys in each league who can't adapt and take advantage of unusual fielder positioning. All in all I really enjoyed your article until I looked at "(which has been a long-standing problem)" and was reminded of how frustrating it was too watch Harris and Cabrera stumble around, and how excited I was when they hired Hardy, and how pissed I got when they fired him. And how much more pissed I got when they hired Nishioka and I saw him reinstate the stumbling around. And lately I've heard the Twins won't give up the 45th draft pick for Drew. I thought I had recovered, but you just RIPPED OFF MY HARDY SCAB!! I have to go kick the dog and take a nap now. I'm very tired.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
    First: Stop it.

    Second: Point taken.

    Last: Seriously, though, stop it.
    Hey, it could be worse. I mistakenly conflated this headline with your heads-up companion post on the Twins checking out Chone Figgins, seemingly as part of an escalation on their new strategy to sign a whole stable of washed-up players.

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    Senior Member Big-Leaguer crarko's Avatar
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    "Let the Wookie win."

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    Owner MVP Seth Stohs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post

    And this is why I want to see Paul Molitor become the next Twins manager. He is one of the few players who got better well into his 30s, indicating that he's open to new ideas and adapting to the environment. He just exudes baseball smarts and this comment just reinforces that opinion.
    getting better as one gets well into his 30s meant something in the late 1990s too, right? Not sure it means he did well at adapting as much as kept himself in good shape and was a great singles hitter for a long time.

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    Owner MVP Seth Stohs's Avatar
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    My thoughts on shifting are kind of boring. I don't believe in shifting (or shading) for every single batter, all game long. I'd look at the stats and the charts and have a sense. But, I don't think I'd open up crazy holes except for the extremes.

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    Stupid math and science.....sports is filled with old school, it has always worked this way, thinking. I hope they are more open to change, and finding any advantage you can.

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