Baseball's approach to defense, long unchanged except for the gloves getting bigger, is undergoing the most radical change in strategy since the Reconstruction Era. Defensive shifting, which started as a trend several years ago, is becoming epidemic. Major League teams "shifted" 8,134 times last season, compared with just 2,357 in 2011.
Aided by increasingly complex technology, the most forward-thinking teams create different schemes and setups for virtually every batter, then switch it up, depending on the pitch count.
As someone admittedly stuck in the purgatory between knowing what I was taught about baseball as a kid and knowing what I’ve learned recently about advanced metrics, this piece finally put shifting in perspective for me, specifically, the rest of the quote used in my title:
"It's not about shifts as much as it is about optimal positioning," said Dan Fox, director of systems development (in effect, wonk-in-chief) for the Pittsburgh Pirates. "The number of times we do optimal positioning should be the number of opposing hitters we face throughout the season."
It’s ‘Climate Change’ as opposed to ‘Global Warming.’ I totally get it now.