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Major League Baseball’s New Obsession With Outfield Defense

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Baseball Outfielder Leaping for Fly Ball ca. 2003
Analytics are reshaping baseball’s outfield defense. (Getty Images)


Baseball once had a rich history of outfield defenses breaking the mold. Remember the Ted Williams shift and the Hall of Famer Tris Speaker playing such an absurdly shallow center field he made a putout at second base.

Then teams settled in and pretty much everyone used the same basic outfield setup.

Now, however, analytics allows baseball to approach the outfield with a lot of data. Teams are trying to maximize their run prevention… and they may take some bold steps to do so. Indeed, there’s even been talk of teams playing four outfielders instead of the traditional three, based on the theory hitters today are taught to hit the ball in the air instead of on the ground.

The result is a game sometimes accused of being stuck in the past putting some serious thought into how to best play the game—tradition be damned.

Learn more about analytics outfield defense in the Wall Street Journal.