The above segment aired on Monday night’s MLB Tonight and is a great example of turning a somewhat complex element of baseball and making it accessible for the average viewer. Bill Ripken set out to back up his assertion that the exaggerated overshift which has become ubiquitous in Major League Baseball the past few years isn’t working as well as many believe.
He shows that the number of overshifts — defined as three infielders on one side of second base — has increased from 9,347 in 2013 to 30,938 in 2016. BABIP (batting average on balls in play) during that time has increased three percentage points, from .297 to .300.
This blew my mind. Now, surely, there are a few other factors to weigh, namely: the value of conceding an opposite-field single to a power hitter who opts to forfeit any chance at providing extra base power. But if the main point of positioning defenders around is to give them a better chance to record an out, overshifts haven’t done what they were intended to do.
If the numbers support this, shouldn’t the wonks who pushed for such a defensive alignment reconsider their position? Every team seems to think that they have found the magic formula when it comes to defending pull hitters. It’s hard to see how that can be the case when the BABIP has ticked up. These teams must think the other 29 squads are really screwing things up.
Ripken presented a fact-based argument and didn’t talk down to viewers or vilify the other side. He even brought a little Pepe Silvia-type energy to the bit. More of this, please.