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The Astros pitchers were persuaded, and Baseball Info Solutions estimated the shift had saved them 11 runs so far this year.Houston now uses the shift all the way down to its Class A club.Once those rules changed in the mid-1880s, players took up the now familiar positions. Shieber said that one of his colleagues at the Hall of Fame, Bill Francis, recently discovered evidence of an infield shift in a June 25, 1870, account in The New York Clipper of a game between the Atlantics of Brooklyn and the Cincinnati Red Stockings.“The Cincinnati fielders moved about in the field, according as the different batsmen came to bat,” the Clipper story said, noting that it was innovative.The most famous shift of the 20th century was used by Cleveland Indians Manager Lou Boudreau against Ted Williams, the Boston Red Sox left-handed slugger, in July 1946, although there are accounts of a shift against Williams dating to 1941. Dewan, the head of Baseball Info Solutions, said his company did not recommend shifting in the outfield because the data suggested that even pull hitters tended to hit the ball in the air to the outfield either straight away or even to the opposite field roughly 54 percent of the time. A ball that lands against a shifted outfield could conceivably go for an inside-the-park home run by the time anyone runs it down.That analysis included a look at the improved defense of the Pittsburgh Pirates over the previous two seasons.The Pirates had mostly the same infielders in those two years, and in 2012 the sum of players involved in double plays was 339 (a 6-4-3 double play would count as three), 13th in the National League.But a radical reworking of defensive principles is reshaping the way the old game is played, and even the way it looks.If you cannot find the third baseman, he might be the one standing in shallow right field. That’s him on the other side of the diamond, next to the shortstop.
Now, with statistical analysis influencing more managers’ decisions, even lightly regarded hitters like Kelly Johnson of the Yankees might see fielders shifting against them, and more right-handed hitters are seeing the shift as well.“Baseball isn’t big on change,” said Dewan, who began advocating defensive shifts about 10 years ago.Now, armed with evidence that shows how a batter has a propensity to hit the ball to certain parts of the field, teams will position their infielders accordingly — at times taking them far from their traditional spots.“The shift is on the verge of becoming the norm,” said Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and one of the early leading proponents of the shift.