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Nats could utilize more defensive shifts

MLB.com

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals have been among the teams who used the fewest defensive shifts in the National League during the past few years. However, that number could rise under new manager Dusty Baker.

Third base coach Chris Speier will be in charge of infield positioning, the same role he had under Baker when the two worked together in Cincinnati, while first base coach Davey Lopes will handle outfield positioning. According to the Washington Post, the Reds were ranked 13th out of the 30 MLB teams by Baker's final season there in 2013 as Baker tried to dispel notions that he was against any data-driven approaches as a manager.

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals have been among the teams who used the fewest defensive shifts in the National League during the past few years. However, that number could rise under new manager Dusty Baker.

Third base coach Chris Speier will be in charge of infield positioning, the same role he had under Baker when the two worked together in Cincinnati, while first base coach Davey Lopes will handle outfield positioning. According to the Washington Post, the Reds were ranked 13th out of the 30 MLB teams by Baker's final season there in 2013 as Baker tried to dispel notions that he was against any data-driven approaches as a manager.

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"I pride myself on my team's defense," Baker said. "I stress defense. It's hard to play on my team if you can't catch."

Baker would not say exactly how much the Nationals would shift next season. He added that the club was unlikely to use any extreme shifts with regularity, but it would certainly be open to it, depending on the tendencies of the opposing player at bat.

"Are we going to do some of the real, real crazy shifts? Unless it's really glaring," Baker said. "But you need history to do that. ... I am a stat man, if there's enough stats to actuate what you're trying."

The Nationals ranked 23rd in baseball last season by defensive runs saved (minus 11), and both of their key additions in the field this offseason, Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere, have some defensive deficiencies. With all that in mind, the right amount of defensive shifting could aid the Nationals in becoming a better defensive team.

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals