Data Journalism Baseball Articles

Defensive Shifts

Arin Tykodi ◆ November 6, 2017

Any fan of baseball can see that the game is changing in a drastic way. Home-runs are being hit like never before, rookie sensations seem to spring onto the scene every few months, and the amount of defensive shifts employed in the game is greater than ever before. What started this trend of adjusted defensive strategies? Moving infielders and outfielders to optimally position them to record an out is an ingenious idea that seems new to many people around the sport. However, it didn’t start as recently as many think. There have been reports of defensiveshifts dating back all the way to 1877, some notably applied to the greats such as Ted Williams and Cy Williams. The hot point of debated comes from the recent spike in shift usage, from 2,357 shifts used in 2011, to 26,700 shifts used in 2017. So, are these defensive mechanisms that have been so popular in the modern game worth all of the extra scouting and analysis? How much do they really affect the hitters yearly performances, and ultimately, how much do shifts affect a team’s chances to win?

Let’s lay out the basic information: a shift occurs when one side of the field is defensively favored by a team. In the modern game, this takes place most often by placing 3 infielders on one side of the infield, as seen on the left. This is known as a “traditional shift,” and has been plaguing pull-hitters for years. Let’s take a look at one of the most shifted against players... Continue Reading

Exit Velocity and a Player’s Offensive Value

Jake Singleton ◆ November 2, 2017

The rise of technology in sports, particularly baseball, is having dramatic effects on how professional organizations approach the game. One of the newest and most upcoming statistics that point to how to hit more home runs and extra-base hits is exit velocity. Exit velocity is the speed with which the ball leaves the bat. Baseball’s most prolific home run and extra-base hitters typically average an exit velocity of 90+ mph, while the MLB average in this category comes in at around 87 mph. Players like Nationals’ second baseman Daniel Murphy are constantly tweaking their swings to find the motion that gives them the best chance of driving the ball with an ideal exit velocity. “You want to hit the ball optimally about 25 degrees at 98 mph,” Murphy said, “those are home runs.” Over the past three seasons... Continue Reading

Spending in MLB to Measure Efficiency

Arjun Srinivasan ◆ March 3, 2017

As Major League Baseball is the only major American professional sports league without a salary cap, money can play a larger factor in the success, or failure, of a given baseball team. This has allowed monetary value to have more influence in the sport, when compared to other American leagues, as it merely taxes its highest spending teams, rather than capping their salaries. Consequently, certain teams are able to spend much more on their players’ salaries than others.
Due to these large differences in the amount of money spent by each team, it is critical that each team spends its money efficiently, more so than in a league with a hard salary cap. I thought that it would be interesting to look at how much each team spent in 2015, to win a single game... Continue Reading