The three most important changes in Major League Baseball over the last ten years are:
1) The widespread adoption of sabermetrics by front offices.
2) The surge in the use of relief pitchers (really the acceleration of a century-long trend).
3) The use of radical defensive shifts.
The first two changes are likely permanent. There is very little chance that, thirty years from now, baseball teams will abandon data in favor of ignorance. Nor will we ever, absent some unimaginable shift in the game, return to the days when pitchers "finished what they started." Pitcher outings will continue to shrink for the simple reason that pitchers are more effective in short bursts.
But are defensive shifts here to stay? Bill James says maybe not:
In what area will the biggest jump be made in sabermetrics in the next few years? As a casual observer, it looks like defensive shifting and pitch framing by catchers analysis will take a big jump forward soon.
Asked by: Steve9753
1) I don't have any idea what to make of the pitch framing stuff.
2) The breakthroughs in shifting have already occurred, although that is not to say they are finished. But the next movement there, one would think, would be the comeback of the bunt, which should--one would think--be able to defeat the shifts for ordinary hitters (not David Ortiz), and thus drive the shifts into remission. I would guess.
I don't know if he's right, but intuitively, it seems like a hitter could stop opposing teams from shifting on him (for a while, at least) by doing this three or four times in the span of a month: