White Sox shifting with the times

Conor Gillaspie is probably turning into Matt Davidson soon, Alexei Ramirez could be turning into Marcus Semien, or just older Alexei Ramirez. Carlos Sanchez, Leury Garcia or Micah Johnson could wind up showing more range than Gordon Beckham--a man whose entire reputation is staked on defense--but would hardly replacing a Dan Uggla-type. And while Jose Abreu is a wide-eyed pup compared to Paul Konerko, he's a natural designated hitter and doesn't appear to be much of a scooper.

Unless Cleuluis Rondon learns to mash somehow, the White Sox infield defense doesn't stand to get better anytime soon, and it's a safe bet it will get worse--or maybe just less talented.

Under these circumstances, it's not surprising to hear tale of the Sox looking for ways to become more efficient. John Dewan identified the Sox as having already ran 61 shifts on the season compared to 73 all of last season, moving them from fourth-fewest defensive shifts executed in 2013 to fourth-most through April 21 in 2014.

Of course, there's a myriad of motivators for the White Sox to get aggressive in shifting besides personnel. They are coming off an embarrassingly discombobulated defensive season that, if nothing else, called into question their level of preparation and execution; which are not the sort of designations management takes lying down. The organization is also now in the third year out from the Ozzie era, which was acknowledged--sort of--to be less open to new ideas.

Or, the Sox just saw a league that's moving toward infield shifting at a rapid rate and started to fall in line with its way of thinking. as the Dewan article notes, the White Sox are enthusiastic participants but still just participants of a trend that sees nearly every major league team shift multiple times per game.

Early returns are kind of a wash thus far. Just looking at groundballs, opponents had a .251 average on them last year against the Sox, and have a .263 average so far this season. That's compared to an MLB-wide average of .248 this season and .242 last. Actually determining how much of that is due to defensive positioning, fielder skill and pitcher skill (the White Sox haven't missed bats this year, and bat-missing stuff logically produces weaker contact) is, if not impossible, still in need of a convincing method.

My instinctual response is to say "Good!" when hearing about an increase in shifts, because shifts are the new strategic wave and it seems better to be aggressively out in front of it than punching the surf. But the correlation between profiles declaring managers to be geniuses and said managers having talented teams that would have won ballgames for him regardless is pretty high, and our colleague Mark Simon wondered aloud how long the effort will stick while Sox pitching results remain...well...'terrible' is a word that could be used.

Here's assuming it will get a fair shake, even if the rules about its application remains ever-evolving. Because while the White Sox may be impatient, they're typically not self-defeating and indecisive. So while the results may wind up being an accident, the intention won't be.