Constantly shifting defense saves O's runs

Constantly shifting defense saves O's runs

Constantly shifting defense saves O's runs

BALTIMORE -- Orioles fans may be most familiar with exaggerated shifts from Chris Davis' at-bats, when teams often have three infielders swing to the right side of the infield, expecting the slugger to pull the ball on the ground.

But according to an article written by John Dewan, author of 'The Fielding Bible' series, the O's employ more shifts on defense than any team in baseball.

As of July 25, when the article was penned, the Orioles had used 344 shifts on the season, compared to the second-place Pirates, who used 335. The Yankees are a distant third, with 302. The Rays and Red Sox used 299 and 291, respectively.

Shifts are becoming more prominent across baseball, and the defensive tactic has saved the Orioles 10 runs this season, according to Dewan.

"You give something to get something," said third base coach Bobby Dickerson, who works with positioning infielders based off batted ball charts. "I'm sure there have been balls hit that would have been outs that have gone to where we would have been at [if we hadn't adjusted]. We just try to do, with all our advance information, we try to get to where we think they're most likely to hit their grounders."

Dickerson says it's not a "shift" as much as it is defensive "positioning." Manager Buck Showalter chuckles at the term "shift," as well, but he said the Orioles have a lot more data than other people do.

"I'm dying for Matt [Wieters] to go out in front of the plate and go, 'Ready, shift!' and have guys running around," Showalter joked, before getting serious. "You're able to do it with a little more conviction nowadays. You used to do it off a chart with seven or eight hits that you did by hand."

Dickerson controls the infielders, and first base coach Wayne Kirby controls the outfielders, but the players are responsible to an extent to know the situation, the hitter at the plate, and the pitcher on the mound. Perhaps none is more important than Wieters in the infield.

"No question, he sees everything out in front of him," Dickerson said. "There's times when he'll talk to me about something he sees in a hitter. He may get a feel that a hitter is trying to do something else and we'll adjust to that. It's nothing etched in stone."

Dickerson and Kirby said they'll change up players' positioning on the field mid-at-bat, whether they feel it will alter a batter's swing, or he has different tendencies in different counts.

"Some hitters change their approach with two strikes, so we have to change defense again. We change positioning around after one strike, after two strikes; it's what the hitter's tendency is," Kirby said. "It's what we call in-game adjustments, and the outfielders are in tune with it and the infielders are in tune with Bobby, that's why they keep their eyes on us."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com.. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.