Analytics say Arizona Diamondbacks making most of defensive shifts
The creator of one defensive statistic widely used among baseball analytic gurus has provided evidence that the Arizona Diamondbacks know what they’re doing when it comes to defensive shifts.
John Dewan — author of The Fielding Bible and creator of the defensive runs saved statistic that gives an overall value of a team or player’s defensive impact — recently noted that the D-backs rank third in MLB and are tied for first in the National League by posting 14 defensive runs saved by shifts.
Stat of the Day: Most Defensive Runs Saved via Shifts #Orioles: 22 #Astros: 21 #DBacks, #Padres: 14 #Rays, #Pirates: 12
— John Dewan (@FieldingBible) August 12, 2015
First-year manager Chip Hale tipped his hand before the season by promising the Diamondbacks would put defensive shifts on certain opposing batters.
He took it a step further by admitting that the leaders of analytical applications, third base coach Andy Green and the team’s director of baseball analytics and research, Dr. Ed Lewis, would make decisions not only based on general spray charts, but on hitter tendencies by pitch count.
It’s clear the shifts are working.
The D-backs aren’t the most shift-happy team in MLB, but at times they have used drastic reorganizations of their infield. Most notably, Arizona has vacated third base against left-handed batters that pull the ball, adding another player in the shallow outfield between first and second base.
Overall, Arizona’s defense has been sneaky solid under Hale’s leadership. The D-backs rank in the MLB top-5 in fewest errors and highest fielding percentage.
Individually, Ender Inciarte, A.J. Pollock and Nick Ahmed rank in the top-20 of all players in defensive wins above replacement player, with Ahmed coming in at No. 5. Ahmed, Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt rank in the top-18 of players in defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs.