Pirates Prospects Article Nominated For a SABR Award – Vote Now!

If you read this site, then you probably read James Santelli’s fantastic article over the summer: Pirates Defensive Shifts: The Hidden Secret Behind Baseball’s Best Team. The article was by far one of the most popular articles in site history, and for good reason. The insight and the breakdown of how the defensive shifts have been employed were fantastic, at a time when people were just starting to realize that the Pirates were using such a plan to improve their defensive results.

James’ article has gotten bigger recognition than being just one of the most popular articles in site history. He has also been nominated for a SABR Research Award. His article is nominated in the “Contemporary Baseball Analysis” category, going up against articles from Beyond the Box Score, FanGraphs, Baseball America, and The Washington Post.

Personally, I’m just happy to see Pirates Prospects listed with all of those outstanding outlets. It means that all of the bad jokes on Twitter, and the Simpsons references, and the not-that-much-money I paid James was well worth it. But the awards are also decided based on a vote. And I’d be even happier if James won, beating those other fantastic writers at their big market outlets. So I’m going to ask you to vote.

You can vote at five different places. Each place counts for 20% of the overall vote, so you can vote at all five places. I just did, and it only took a few minutes. If you don’t want to take a few minutes to vote, then you’re basically letting the big markets win, and you’re pretty much admitting to being a Yankees fan. You’re not a Yankees fan, are you? Well, you’re not if you vote for James.

Here are the links to vote. Why don’t you…shift…on over to those sites and place your vote now.

The Hardball Times



Baseball Prospectus

Beyond the Box Score


  • When Fangraphs asked for recommendations for nominees from commenters, James’ piece was the one I pointed out!

    It was an excellent piece, and it changed the way everyone — SABR folks and eventually even TV announcers — talked about the Pirates in 2013.

    He wasn’t the first one to talk about their shifts, but he’s the one that highlighted the significance.

  • Almost had to vote for the Dave Cameron piece, but lucky the Jon Roegele piece in the other category covers the same topic. Honestly it is the biggest trend in baseball the expanding strike zone in the Pitch/Fx era.

  • In the early days of baseball, the three infielders not named shortstop, took their positions literally. They played on the bag. That left a nice hole for lefty batters, though right fielders played shallow due to the dead ball, so if you hit it hard enough you were still going to get out. Didn’t see that in James’ article…just sayin’

    • They did not have the benefit of stats and charting the way we have today, seems pretty simple to me, if you know the general vicinity of where someone is going to hit a ball, you put players there to catch the ball, nothing in the rules says a 2nd basemen has to play 2nd base, as you said they used to play on the bag, but the rules did not say that they had to. You take advantage of the rules.
      An example of what I am trying to say would be this:
      bases loaded ninth inning, one out, if the runner scores from 3rd you lose. Why not bring the left fielder close enough to the infield that he is within range of throwing out the tagging runner, rather than what I have seen far to many times, a left fielder standing in normal left field position. Even if he catches it the game is over. Also, the Pirates play that ridiculous no doubles defense in the 8th or 9th inning (Backs to the Wall) giving teams free hits over the the SS or 2nd basemen’s heads, when the last thing you want to do is let someone get on.

      • Your intuition is right, Hardball Times had a great piece on shifts and found while the “no doubles” defense decreases extra base hits slightly, the batting average for balls in play jumps from .300 to .394.

  • Voted for Santelli even though I did not read any of the other articles that he was up against. I am glad this article was about defensive baseball, even though defensive shifting has been around for probably a hundred years. You would think the Pirates just invented the wheel. Defense is something near and dear to my philosophies and why I believe the Pirates will have success now and will have success in the future. Defense is cheap to buy, offense is expensive. I can remember when we were kids back in the 40’s, we used defensive shifts all the time, had to, sometimes we only had enough kids for 7 on 7 or 6 on 6 or we had to stick the kid that could not catch anything in right field, thus playing without a right fielder at all, and when a left hander batted we moved the SS half way into right field and 3rd basemen to SS and did not use a 3rd basemen. Amazing how kids can think of this stuff and it took major league teams another 60 years to catch up!

    • Well the MLB teams have been handicapped by having 9 fielders almost every game, so they weren’t quite as motivated as you were to shift the defense. Defense is also near and dear to my heart, as I carried a much bigger glove than bat in my playing days. That said, comparing kids trying to scratch enough players together to play a game and MLB teams shifting from 2&2 to 1&3 on the infield is hilarious.

      Next you’ll be claiming credit for the emphasis on halfcourt offenses in basketball because you guys didn’t have a full court to play on.

  • Just voted for Santelli in all 5 places Tim. Didn’t want to do it, but nobody calls me a Yankees fan and gets away with it. You’re lucky you live 1000 miles away so my only recourse was to vote.

    FWIW, 5 is the perfect # of votes. That way I could vote for each article not in Santelli’s category once, and not throw off the voting for articles I haven’t read (and mostly don’t want to read from the headlines).

  • Congratulations to James!
    He is from my “hood”, and I can remember him at hot stove gatherings for season ticket holders….he was probably about 10 years old and sitting in front row with his father, peppering Neal Huntington with intelligent questions.