Today, Major League Baseball teams are focusing more and more on defense.
An example of this is the art of defensive shifting.
The manager of a club may decide to use a shift against a hitter based on scouting information, statistical data or even his own gut feeling.
These shifts that are being implemented against hitters are taking would-be hits and turning them into outs.
Hitters are being forced to adapt to the shift against them and hit the ball where the fielders aren’t.
Although the strategy of shifting isn’t new and has been around since the 1920s, the frequency in which it is now utilized has increased significantly.
According to the Bill James Handbook, defensive shifts have increased nearly 500 percent from 2010 to 2014.
The number of shifts have nearly doubled every year since the 2011 season, from 2,357 to 13,298 in the 2014 season according to Baseball Info Solutions.
By the 2015 All-Star break, teams implemented the shift 10,262 times.
The opinion on defensive shifting from players to executives to managers in the league varies from negative to positive.
Some teams in the league today also seem to be valuing defensive ability in players over their hitting abilities.
A good example of this is how the Pittsburgh Pirates handled their former slugger Pedro Alvarez this past offseason.
Alvarez, who played both third base and first base during his tenure with the Pirates, was non-tendered by the team this past December.
Alvarez remained unsigned all offseason until this past week, when the Baltimore Orioles picked him up to be their designated hitter.
Why would a guy who is only 29 years old and has led the National League in home runs a few years back not be highly sought after once he hit the open market?
One word: defense.
His home run hitting abilities have never been questioned, as he produced 30 and 36 home run seasons during his time with the Buccos.
In his last season with the Pirates, he hit a team leading 27 home runs, but also had 23 errors, which was the most by a major league first baseman since 1999.
The Pirates letting their leading home run hitter go just because of his lack of defensive skills shows how seriously defense is being taken in the league today.
I’m sure you’ve heard in other sports, such as football and basketball, that defense wins championships.
With the advances of defensive analytics in baseball, that cliché may hold some truth in baseball now, too.