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Cleveland Indians plan to practice defense and use more shifts in 2015

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As you already know, the Indians were a terrible defensive team in 2014, arguably the very worst in all of MLB. The advanced metrics were almost uniformly very down on them, and old-fashioned methodologies didn't look any better, as the Tribe 116 errors, the most of any team.

In the outfield the big problem was a lack of range. That's a difficult thing to fix without bringing in new players, especially given that defense starts to decline relatively early in a player's career, meaning they're more likely to lose range as they go than they are to gain it.

The infield wasn't as limited in its troubles, as it showed a lack of range, struggled to field the ball cleanly, and made a number of bad throws. Better positioning and technique can have a bigger impact on those areas for infielders, and so the Indians will be spending more time than usual working on infield practice this spring.

Hopefully those drills go better for players like Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall than they did for Roger Dorn, or they'll be spending a lot of time in the ice bath.

The Indians also plan to implement defensive shifts more frequently in 2015.

Tribe bench coach Brad Mills told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, "We're going to have to put guys in shifts in spring training. We might be shifting some guys that don't need to be shifted, just to simulate and hope the guy does hit one [where we need to work on it]. We're just going to have to get into it, because we're trying to defend."

Notably, the Indians were already using defensive shifts more often than the average team in 2014. Steve Moyer published a study in the Wall Street Journal last September which listed the Tribe with 707 shifts to that point, and average of close to five a game. That was the seventh-highest total among all 30 teams. Shifts have been trending upwards league-wide during the last few years, so the Indians planning to use the shift even more in 2015 doesn't necessarily mean they're going to climb into the top five in usage, but those fans who dislike the shift should prepare to be disappointed, because Terry Francona and his coaching staff view it as an important way to increase the team's chances at success.

Shifting properly is a good way to save runs, but not as good a way as having good defenders. The Tribe defense did a lot better in the second half of last season than the first half, and hopefully that's a trend that continues. They don't need to be one of the top defensive units in baseball in order for the team to succeed, but the difference between being among the very worst and being only a little below average could certainly mean the difference between an AL Central crown and missing the postseason.