Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays are often credited with starting the recent trend in defensive shifts and now the Rays appear to be getting back to what made them great defensively.

Through 75 games, the Rays led all MLB teams with 668 defensive shifts on balls in play according to Scott Pratt for ESPN.com. That is 56 more than the team with the second-most, the Houston Astros (612), and more than 200 more shifts than any team not named the Astros.

The Rays are also on pace to shift nearly 1,450 times this season which would be a big increase over 2014 when the Rays shifted 1,119 times. It was just three years ago in 2011 when there were only 2,357 shifts used during the entire season by all 30 teams combined.

The Rays’ return to the top of the rankings is interesting.

By one measure, the Rays were not very good at defensive shifts in 2014. Even though they had the second-most shifts in baseball, they ranked near the bottom of MLB in terms of runs saved by using the shift. Still, there was a net gain in runs saved so there was no reason to stop shifting.

Meanwhile, the Astros, who have emulated the Rays in many ways, are on pace to shift slightly more than 1,300 times, nearly identical to their 2014 total of 1,341 which led all of MLB.



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