Astros: Five things the team did well in 2018

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CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring a run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring a run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Lots of shifting

Shifting, for better or worse, has generated plenty of dialogue in baseball about player positioning. Some are all for it, some are against it, and a few are not quite sure what to make of it. Regardless of your position (pun intended), the Astros led the way in shifting this year.

Total shifts by plate appearances in 2018

  1. Astros – 2,195

  2. Rays – 1,781

  3. Twins – 1,734

Only the Rays (24.8%) and Twins (22.1%) shifted more against right-handed hitters than the Astros (21.2%). However, Houston took the cake with shifting a league-high 59.7% against left-handed hitters. Only the Yankees at 52.6% shifted more than 50% against left-handed hitters. For context, the league average shift rate against right-handed hitters was only 8.9% and 29.6% against left-handed hitters. Houston’s front office led by Jeff Luhnow is not afraid to push the boundaries.

The Astros were particularly well known for employing dramatic shifts against hitters like the Rangers’ Joey Gallo in 2018.

I am curious to see how much teams like the Astros shift in the coming years. Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus, and author of The Shift, warned that the shift might be “a mirage” here. Warning that there is quite a bit of math in his article, yet definitely well worth the read. Also, Carleton doesn’t advocate for the end of the shift, but he does present data which indicates that the shift isn’t exactly working. Again, check it out if you have time.

Next. Areas of concern for the Astros heading into the offseason. dark

For Houston, though, the shift was a point of emphasis this past season. They were on the leading edge of the movement. If you were to classify a job well done by the number of times you did it, then the Astros shifted well in 2018. But Houston held teams to a .294 wOBA in all shift situations, which is the 17th-best mark in baseball. Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I am curious to see how the Astros shift in the coming years.

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