Yesterday on the MLB Network "Hot Stove" program Harold Reynolds made a surprisingly good point. They were discussing free agent Hanley Ramirez and whether he could play shortstop. Reynolds said that Ramirez could catch the ball if it was hit at him, as in playing third base, and that moving over a few feet didn't make that much difference. If Ramirez signed with a team like the Yankees, who played the infield shift a lot in 2014, the lack of range of Ramirez at shortstop would not be such a big deal, that he'd already be standing where many batters would hit the ball.
I thought about it and it made a lot of sense. Reynolds, of course, did not have any data to back it up but I wonder if some teams are considering that and, if so, how much. It could impact the risk factor of signing Ramirez quite a bit.
The link has a 1949 article by New York writer Dan Daniel about the shift played against Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. An excerpt:
The Yankees, like other clubs in the league, use a shift against Williams, with the second baseman playing deep behind first base.
In 1948, with George Sternweiss playing there, Williams was thrown out with ease no fewer than seven times. This year, with Gerald Coleman in the second base shift, Williams has been awarded three hits on balls fumbled by the New York second sacker in Boston.
The main point of the article is that the Boston official scorers were intentionally giving Williams hits on misplayed balls in the normal hit area. Pertinent to my point is that the shift impacts the evaluation of fielders. In Boston Coleman was also benefiting in not being charged with errors. Sternweiss had benefited with extra putouts.
And that just deals with fielding data for individuals. More important to the team is whether fielders are achieving optimum results.