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The Shift: The Next Evolution in Baseball Thinking
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Past book reviews & discussions > Discussion of "The Shift"

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Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments So, I'm only 11% into the book, but I am bored to tears. To me it's all bull. Is anyone reading this? If so, please tell me it gets better.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 13628 comments Mod
I've only done the intros, but your observation has made me all the more curious. I have some downtime tomorrow - I'll take a look and get back to you.


message 4: by Michael Linn (new)

Michael Linn | 11246 comments Harold wrote: "So, I'm only 11% into the book, but I am bored to tears. To me it's all bull. Is anyone reading this? If so, please tell me it gets better."

HAHA; how`d you get as far as 11 % ? The Jacket cover is a bore!! But I yield to the group to yawn to themselves
Mike Linn


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 13628 comments Mod
Maybe there was a reason the book was so cheap on Amazon so soon after publication...


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Lance wrote: "Maybe there was a reason the book was so cheap on Amazon so soon after publication..."
And I thought Jeff Passan wrote it but he just did the foreward


message 7: by Harold (last edited Sep 09, 2018 04:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments PS I decided to push myself to read more of The Shift, and I have to admit that it's a really good book. It's not an easy read and it flies in the face of us old guys' beliefs in certain ideas(steals, bunts, when to run on a sac fly),but it is very thoughtfully written. I am amazed at how granular the sabermetricians have become. They analyze every pitch, every outcome, every out, every hit, and come up with statistical proof to show why bunting a man over to second does not improve run producing percentages. Everything is examined for "what is the expected value of a play or non act". The same is true of a steal. At what point is stealing second base worthwhile in increasing the chances of a run? For example, based on 2017 statistics, unless the runner has better than a 73.94 % of making it safely, it isn't worth trying. When should a runner tag on a sac fly from third base with one out? It turns out, he should go practically every time. One thing I thought was cool was the discussion of whether the KC third base coach should have sent Alex Gordon in the final game of the 2014 WS when there were two outs and Sal perez was up. He makes a persuasive argument based on Perez' OBP during the season and the playoffs that there was a better chance of an errant throw or missed tag than the chance that Perez would drive him home. There is a lot here to digest, including leverage situations for relievers rather than just the bottom of the 9th(a concept used by Francona with Andrew Miller), and the expected extra runs attributable to catchers for good pitch framing based on stats of pitches. WAR is also explained well, and just how a players run production gives him a number that translates into team runs. It will likely take me two more weeks to read it(I'm only at 31% because this is like taking a statistics and probability course for baseball). Now I understand better why GMs look for more analytical field managers and why owners look for Harvard guys to make a GM. This isn't just magic. It's based on real data.
P.S. There are a couple of pages discussing how emotionally overrated Omar Vizquel was as a fielder which rang true to me because I read the same thing in Jay Jaffe's book. He made the great plays of the week, but apparently from data had below average range and should have made a lot of plays that he couldn't.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 13628 comments Mod
Glad you stuck with it Harold. I am trying to catch up on author/publisher requests but will get to it. This sounds good. Plus since we don't select a new book for October, we have time to join you.


message 9: by Mike (new)

Mike (mike9) | 6419 comments Thanks H, In 2005 Bill Felber wrote The Book on the Book, which changed my mind about stealing, sacrificing, hit and run etc.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Actually John Thorn and a guy named Palmer wrote the The Hidden Game in 1985 which first used statistics to support some of the same findings.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Good summary Harold.

A lot of stuff to digest. I guess one of the bottom lines for button-pushers is a better way of estimating the percentage of a favorable outcome, given the choices present in each at bat.

Of course Spock could have done the same thing if a team had only had the foresight to give him a good enough offer to get him off the space ship and into the dugout.

But also, all these new-age managers look like geniuses when it works and still get calls for their heads when it doesn't. There is still no way to guarantee the robots will perform exactly as expected in any given situation.


message 12: by Harold (last edited Sep 11, 2018 07:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments That is what the author admits. I'm only 41% into it. he's now talking about using starters to go 3 innings etc.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 13628 comments Mod
I can't wait to read that passage about game 7 of the 2014 WS. And all this time, we simply thought it would have been better to send Gordon home because of Baumgartner.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Lance wrote: "I can't wait to read that passage about game 7 of the 2014 WS. And all this time, we simply thought it would have been better to send Gordon home because of Baumgartner."it's only two or three pages


message 15: by Dave (new)

Dave Jordan | 119 comments Wish I had the time to write a long article about the possibility that "baseball," the front-offices and the saber-minded community in particular, is out-smarting itself now.


message 16: by Dave (new)

Dave Jordan | 119 comments That said, I am starting to come around on selectively allowing relievers to start games, but only in the 5th starter slot. Most teams tax their bullpens so much that there's not enough pitches in those arms to justify that level of usage, especially to the detriment of the bench.


message 17: by Harold (last edited Sep 11, 2018 10:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Dave wrote: "That said, I am starting to come around on selectively allowing relievers to start games, but only in the 5th starter slot. Most teams tax their bullpens so much that there's not enough pitches in ..."
That's what this author suggests. P.S. Give me a few bullet points that your article would discuss so I get a better feel for how the teams are outsmarting themselves.(If you have time)


message 18: by Dave (new)

Dave Jordan | 119 comments Well, just off the top of my head, there's the push for increased bullpen usage then there are cries that the game is too long. Bullpenning implies that those pitchers won't blow up, it will mean that more pitchers will need to be used, which will also increase the length of the game. The increased use of defensive shifts can possibly lead to a much more efficient, but less exciting product. The emphasis on home runs and walks. In 1999, there were 55 players who finished the year over .300. In 2015 there were 25, this year, we're at 16. Things like that.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 13628 comments Mod
That is something that I just can't wrap my head around - how are walks considered more valuable than base hits that are not home runs?


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Dave wrote: "Well, just off the top of my head, there's the push for increased bullpen usage then there are cries that the game is too long. Bullpenning implies that those pitchers won't blow up, it will mean t..." But in terms of a team's individual best interests for a pennant race(I don't mean MLB's best interests), it may be coming. P.S. In The Shift, he argues that the defensive shift has not proven to be effective; namely it has hurt some teams. I didn't buy it, but that's what he thinks,


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Lance wrote: "That is something that I just can't wrap my head around - how are walks considered more valuable than base hits that are not home runs?"
I don't think the author ever said walks were better than hits.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 13628 comments Mod
Oh, I didn't mean specifically this author - I meant as a whole - what happened to putting the ball in play and getting base hits?


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments They still want hits, but they want batters to be selective; namely hit balls in the strike zones. That's my guess.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Harold wrote: "They still want hits, but they want batters to be selective; namely hit balls in the strike zones. That's my guess."

Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby pitched hitting balls in the strike zones for years. What is new is that OBP is the alter at which everyone must worship and that means more walks for batters.

I agree to a certain extent--it is much better to have a batting average of .280 with a bunch of walks and an OBP of .400 than to have a batting average of .290 with only a few walks and an OBP of .310.

But I think it has been taken too far. Each situation and each at bat is different and that's one point they seem to be forgetting. I've been complaining for years about Joey Votto, batting with one out and a man on third, down one run late in the game, taking 2 strikes down the middle and then walking on a full count. When the man behind you sucks and you are paid to be the top dog, you need to get that run in, not take a walk to pad your OBP. If that means a ground ball or fly ball that scores a run but doesn't help the batting average or OBP, so be it.


message 25: by Harold (last edited Sep 13, 2018 05:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Here is my review. There were some slow parts especially at the beginning.
First let me say that I hated the first 11% of my kindle book. I almost gave up. DON'T! This is an extremely enjoyable book by a very likeable author whose love for the game is palpable in his stories and writing. He is also a humorist and a psychologist to boot. His purpose is to shed some light on the SHIFT or evolution in baseball thinking which has consumed the sport in the last decade. The Shift does not refer only to the explosion of the defensive shifts in the game, but rather the movement away from the human element to a more data driven game. As a psychologist, the author tries to reconcile them for the game and for the reader's perspective of how and why the game is played today as opposed to twenty years ago.(Think "The Trouble with the Curve" meets "Moneyball".
It may shake some of us old guys' beliefs in certain ideas(steals, bunts, when to run on a sac fly),but it is very thoughtfully written. I am amazed at how granular the sabermetricians have become. They analyze every pitch, every outcome, every out, every hit, and come up with statistical proof to show why bunting a man over to second does not improve run producing percentages. Everything is examined for "what is the expected value of a play or non act". The same is true of a steal. At what point is stealing second base worthwhile in increasing the chances of a run? For example, based on 2017 statistics, unless the runner has better than a 73.94 % of making it safely, it isn't worth trying. When should a runner tag on a sac fly from third base with one out? It turns out, he should go practically every time. One thing I thought was cool was the discussion of whether the KC third base coach should have sent Alex Gordon in the final game of the 2014 WS when there were two outs and Sal perez was up. He makes a persuasive argument based on Perez' OBP during the season and the playoffs that there was a better chance of an errant throw or missed tag than the chance that Perez would drive him home. There is a lot here to digest, including leverage situations for relievers rather than just the bottom of the 9th(a concept used by Francona with Andrew Miller), and the expected extra runs attributable to catchers for good pitch framing based on stats of pitches. Carleton also makes a statistically driven case that defensive shifts may actually do more harm than good. Two other things I found fascinating. First, he produces evidence to show that there is little if no correlation between giving a pitcher three days rest rather than four with a result of fewer injuries. Second, he did a computer simulated season of games to judge whether traditional notions of batting orders made a real difference. Surprise! Only 1.5 runs scored was the difference in the year. The use of bull-penning and high leverage usage of relievers, and the value added by player versatility are discussed, and he debunks some myths including the myth of momentum as an influence on games. So, this is a very helpful, funny and well explained(except for Cox regression) book about the evolution in thinking and the myths still viable in the game. Great job


message 26: by Mike (new)

Mike (mike9) | 6419 comments Thanks H, I'll put it on the list.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

So regarding sac flies, is he saying that if you're on third and a medium can of corn is hit to right and Clemente has time to get under it, back up two steps, catch it moving in over his right shoulder and fires in one motion, that you should go almost every time?

I find that hard to believe.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Mike wrote: "Thanks H, I'll put it on the list." Bear in mind that I tend to overrate books. Most of the concepts you will be aware of but the stats that back them up are what i found so interesting.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Doug wrote: "So regarding sac flies, is he saying that if you're on third and a medium can of corn is hit to right and Clemente has time to get under it, back up two steps, catch it moving in over his right sho..." Well, he says you have to know your fielder and runner, but he says in 90% of the cases he will score. And he has the stats to back it up.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

I discovered the true birth of baseball analytics--it arrived earlier than we previously knew: http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.co...


message 31: by Patricia (new) - added it

Patricia Kerster | 19 comments Lance wrote: "That is something that I just can't wrap my head around - how are walks considered more valuable than base hits that are not home runs?"
I think he said they were AS valuable? I can't remember the wording now, but this also struck me odd. I am a big fan of the walk (I am a Reds fan, and have listened for years as Votto gets criticized), BUT a walk can't drive in a run if there is only a guy on 2nd or 3rd. So I'll take the walk, but the hit beats it.

I liked this book. I do think he was all over the place though. You get a taste for a bunch of different topics.

To what some of you guys were discussing before, yes, he says that if there is a runner on 3rd, long fly, etc., then send him. But it is a good point that even if 90% of the time he will make it, for those other 10% of cases, the 3rd base coach will be widely criticized, which can't be measured by stats.

My background is that I am a numbers person, and did a lot of math and stats in school. My job is a Data Analyst. A few times I have looked into getting jobs in baseball stats, but I don't have a PhD in Stats. I do, however, have a binder from the mid-80s where I invented my own statistics and typed all of the data from the back of Sport magazine and printed out my results on my Apple IIe!

I think this author did a pretty good job explaining some of the math in simplified terms, but it is hard for me to judge!

All of that said, while I can read and enjoy a book like this, I do think that sabermetrics can be overwhelming and make the game less "fun" to watch. Beyond WAR, which I think is great, most of the new stats are not intuitive and probably don't need to be read by broadcasters while I am watching a game.

Anyway, this was a good and interesting read. I am glad I saw it on sale that day, and glad that it was chosen for this discussion, as I like seeing other baseball fans' takes on it.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Doug wrote: "I discovered the true birth of baseball analytics--it arrived earlier than we previously knew: http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.co..."
Doug, this is ingenious. It is so creative and thoughtful. Whatan amazing job. Thank you.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Doug wrote: "I discovered the true birth of baseball analytics--it arrived earlier than we previously knew: http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.co..." I posted it on my Facebook page. You should try to get this published by Sports magazine or The Athletic or SI.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Harold wrote: "Doug wrote: "I discovered the true birth of baseball analytics--it arrived earlier than we previously knew: http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.co......"

Thanks Harold. Me and my wife have been binge-watching the original Star Trek series (we're half way through season 3). It's surprising how much of Spock's statements really do fit in to a discussion of baseball analytics.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Doug wrote: "Harold wrote: "Doug wrote: "I discovered the true birth of baseball analytics--it arrived earlier than we previously knew: http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.co......" great job.


message 36: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 8342 comments Apparently today was the anniversary of the shooting of the scene from 'The Seven Year Itch' that got Joe DiMaggio so riled
http://pdxretro.com/2018/09/famous-mo...


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments C. John wrote: "Apparently today was the anniversary of the shooting of the scene from 'The Seven Year Itch' that got Joe DiMaggio so riled
http://pdxretro.com/2018/09/famous-mo......"

Joe D was intensely possessive of her and hated the publicity and gawkers. Yet he still sent roses to her grave every week for years after she died. They almost reconciled after the Arthur Miller's divorce


message 38: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 8342 comments Oops, Thought I was on the 2018 season thread when I posted.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 13628 comments Mod
Was reading this on my ride to the game today. 40% through amd really enjoying it. Disagree with Harold on one thing. I liked the first 11% as well as the rest so far.


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Lance wrote: "Was reading this on my ride to the game today. 40% through amd really enjoying it. Disagree with Harold on one thing. I liked the first 11% as well as the rest so far."
Mike Linn disagrees with you Lance, but he can speak for himself.


Joy D | 41 comments Just finished this book and really enjoyed it. Rather than re-post my review, I'll just provide the link to it:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Harold Kasselman | 18532 comments Joy D wrote: "Just finished this book and really enjoyed it. Rather than re-post my review, I'll just provide the link to it:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..."

Well written Joy. Good synopsis of the contents.


Joy D | 41 comments Harold wrote: "Joy D wrote: "Just finished this book and really enjoyed it. Rather than re-post my review, I'll just provide the link to it:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..."
Well written Joy. Go..."


Thanks, Harold!


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