Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: Too Shifty for their own Good?

jkramer
DETROIT- SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of Tiger Stadium prior to the final baseball game played at the 87 year old Tiger Stadium as the Detroit Tigets host the Kansas City Royals on September 27, 1999 in Detroit, Michigan. There was 6,873 games played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbul streets. The Tigers won the game 8-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Gettyimages)
DETROIT- SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of Tiger Stadium prior to the final baseball game played at the 87 year old Tiger Stadium as the Detroit Tigets host the Kansas City Royals on September 27, 1999 in Detroit, Michigan. There was 6,873 games played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbul streets. The Tigers won the game 8-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Gettyimages) /
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The Detroit Tigers are rebuilding and with that comes new styles of playing. If you have not already noticed, teams have been playing analytics baseball.

The Detroit Tigers have been relatively slow to implement analytics. It applies not only to “Money Ball” offenses but now to defenses as well. Should the Bengals now consider deploying an outfield shift?

With the turn of the 21st century, new ideas presented themselves on how best to field a competitive team. Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane realized he could not compete with big revenue-generating clubs. While Oakland had a strong fan base, they did not bring in sufficient cash to compete in the free agent market.

Beane built a team based on undervalued players utilizing Sabermetric tools. Gone were the days where a player’s potential to a team was based on a scout’s personal evaluation.

New tools, such as On Base Percentage (OBP), Slugging percentage (SLG – total bases divided by at-bats) and WAR (number of wins above replacement) now took center stage. Tools such as these, were now being used to evaluate players.

Defensive Analytics

In addition to offensive analytic tools, teams started to deploy an infield defensive shift where appropriate. As implemented, a team shifts an extra infielder to that side of the field where, analytics show, a batter is most likely to hit.

Does the scheme work? Just ask Victor Martinez.

The “shift” has proven so successful that almost all teams employ the defensive tool.

As we have recently observed, there is a new analytics twist to defenses.

Teams are now shifting outfielders.  It is not a “true shift” as we now understand it but a swap of outfielders.

If statistics show that a batter is most likely to hit to the certain field, then the defensive team moves their best fielder to that field. Once the at-bat has concluded, the fielders move back to their original position.

The Detroit Tigers have been relatively slow to implement analytics and embrace sabermetrics. As of a year ago, the Tigers were still trying to fill analytics positions within the organization.

New manager Ron Gardenhire was hired, in part, because he embraces sabermetrics. It is hoped that his open-minded approach to analytics will hasten the growth of the young Detroit team.

Next: Prospects entering make or break seasons

Impact on the Game

While the Baseball brass continues to contemplate ways to speed up games, new on-field schemes continue to undermine their efforts. Time gained by curtailing a number of trips to the mound, the time between pitches and restricting a player to the batter’s box is now offset by the infield and outfield shifts.

What do you think? Should the Detroit Tigers employ this scheme? Let us know!

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