Shifting prevalent early for Angels

Team doing so against righties, and even within counts

Shifting prevalent early for Angels

ANAHEIM -- It's early, but the Angels seem to be shifting their infield defense a lot more frequently this season, doing so against right-handed hitters and even within counts.

"We're getting more information," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our information is more precise, and it's going to allow us to do some things. Even though we started to shift for the last three years, this is helping you to shrink the field even more. And we want to take advantage of it."

Under former general manager Jerry Dipoto, who often struggled to get the coaching staff to adapt some of the advanced concepts he wanted to integrate, the Angels relied heavily on batted-ball trends from Baseball Info Solutions and cross-referenced them with the traditional spray charts from Bloomberg's "Inside Edge."

Scioscia wouldn't divulge where the Angels are getting their data this season, but new GM Billy Eppler has installed an analytics department, the first of its kind for this organization, which is headed by director of quantitative analysist Jonathan Luman, who spent the last eight years as a systems analyst at Johns Hopkins University's applied physics laboratory.

Teams have been shifting left-handed pull hitters for decades, but in recent years, clubs began to do the same against right-handed hitters and even dramatically altered their defensive alignments depending on counts. In Thursday's 4-3 win over the Rangers, the Angels shifted against lefties like Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland, but also right-handed hitters like Adrian Beltre and Ian Desmond.

The Angels were basically in the middle of the pack with regards to defensive shifting last year.

"Players more than ever are having to stay in touch with a coach because I think it's putting a lot on players to be able to track every nuance that's being developed," Scioscia said. "For the most part, you want guys to be free to go out there and play baseball. You don't want to put guys in footprints and have them feel like they can't move. You want them to use their instincts, use their feel. And that's balance that we hopefully have created."

Worth noting

• The Angels will host their sixth annual 5K and Fun Run on Saturday morning, with more than 5,000 fans signed up for the event. Hector Santiago and former Angels pitcher Clyde Wright will be on hand. The run begins at 8 a.m. PT, though showers are expected throughout Saturday.

• Scioscia burned the switch-hitting Daniel Nava the last two games, opting not to bat him right-handed against a lefty reliever. Scioscia replaced Nava with right-handed-hitting catchers Carlos Perez and Geovany Soto on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Nava, who starts against righties, continues to take batting practice right-handed. Scioscia said he just liked the matchups.

Ji-Man Choi and Cliff Pennington each made their first starts of the season against Rangers starter A.J. Griffin on Friday. Choi replaced first baseman C.J. Cron, batting seventh, and Pennington replaced second baseman Johnny Giavotella, batting ninth. Cron and Giavotella are healthy.

• Former Angels star Tim Salmon has been inducted into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame, along with fellow outfielder Willie Davis and pitcher Bob Joyce. Salmon played in 118 PCL games in 1992, leading all Triple-A leagues in RBIs (105), on-base percentage (.469), slugging (.672) and total bases. His 29 homers were tops in the PCL that year, spent with the Edmonton Trappers.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.