Better Late Than Never, Phillies Might Increase Usage of Defensive Shifts

During this afternoon’s game against the Braves, the Phillies employed a noticeable defensive shift on the Braves’ first baseman, Freddie Freeman. According to beat writer, Matt Gelb, this was not an anomaly and instead might have hinted at a surprising new trend.

If the Phillies really do have a new found appreciation for defensive shifting, it will represent a significant departure from their defensive positioning philosophy of the recent past. In 2013, the Phillies ranked 29th in the usage of defensive shifts on balls in play with only the Washington Nationals employing fewer.

As Eric Longenhagen pointed out on Twitter, Freeman, the target of today’s shifts, is not necessarily the quintessential shift candidate:


Of course during a spring training game on March 5th, the strategic necessity of the shift is barely relevant. If the Phillies truly intend to incorporate more extensive use of the shift throughout the season, they should be employing it on any and all marginal shift candidates during exhibition games so that when the regular season comes around the infielders are fully prepared.

Just for fun, here are the spray charts of a few other NL East players that the Phillies might be inclined to utilize the shift for when they face off:

LaRoche spray chart Uggla spray chart Davis spray chart Saltalamacchia spray chart (vs RHP)

One would think after years of watching Ryan Howard humbled by drastic defensive shifts, it was only a matter of time before the Phillies decided to buy into the general movement towards an increasing usage of defensive shifting. It appears that time may have finally arrived. Not to count chickens before they’ve hatched, but the point where the Phillies’ new analytics department is more of a relevant factor than a punchline may be approaching more quickly than expected.

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  1. josh

    March 05, 2014 08:36 PM

    I think this is more Ryno than the analytics department. Hopefully this is a bottom to top change. We saw the Pirates front office last year convince clint hurdle to do more shifting and analytics. Who knows maybe a good season of Smart baseball changes some minds in the front office. That includes Ruben, charlie, wade and dallas green is still hanging around too.

    • hk

      March 06, 2014 06:23 AM

      Just wondering, did the Phils shift more after Sandberg replaced Charlie?

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