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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pulling for Teddy Ballgame

My column today at BP deals with the history and of defensive shifts and delves into a little data on The Splendid Splinter's propensity to pull as well as an analysis of the most pull-happy modern players. I was inspired to take up the topic after spending several enjoyable hours digesting the essays in The 2008 Hardball Times Annual. As you might imagine I'm partial to the "Analysis" section and although I wasn't particularly impressed with one of the essays, for the thinking fan the material in the ten essays is well worth the cost of the book.

And while I appreciated Tom Tango's work on catcher defense and an exhaustive look at what can be learned about Derek Jeter's defense from Retrosheet, John Walsh's investigation of platoon splits, David Gassko's new take on the vexing subject of managerial contributions, and John Beamer's walk through a Markov Model for the 2007 season, it was a section of the essay "Of Home Runs and Free Agents" by Greg Rybarczyk of Hit Tracker fame that caught my eye. In that article Greg has a section titled "'Did Anyone Order a Center fielder?' Case Study: All Batted Balls by Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones," in which, as the title implies, he takes an in-depth look at the balls in play for these two players, and in doing so mentions the idea of employing an infield shift against Jones. For those interested Greg has posted data from that article at SOSH.

Great stuff and once again THT has put together a very fine collection of analytical and historical essays coupled with a look back at 2007.