Baseball players have their designated positions on the field, depending on their role in the team. However, there are times when the infield defenders shift position on the ballpark.
What is the shift in baseball? Essentially, this occurs when defenders are placed in a different position on the playing field for better defense against the other team’s hitter.
Let us explore this controversial strategy in baseball, and what happened to this strategy this 2023.
Baseball Shift: Definition and Rationale
The straightforward MLB shift meaning is a defensive strategy of fielders that is skewed from the traditional placement of players.
The defensive shift in baseball is employed by shifting the placement of infielders to anticipate an advantage over the hitter’s play.
To gain an advantage, the defense will move their infielders slightly to the right side of the infield. As they expect the ball to be thrown toward the left of the field, it increases the likelihood of the batter hitting an out.
Shifting in baseball has been common since the 1950s. But the MLB has recorded a staggering increase in the number of instances that this strategy is employed by defensive teams.
The baseball shift rule often makes the game less fun to watch, and many consider it unfair to the offensive side.
Teams have seen much success with shifting, and they have taken advantage of the upper hand that this strategy gives their team.
The main reason for the shifts in MLB is that the defensive teams can massively reduce the batting averages of their opponents.
How Baseball Shift Works
If you are confident that the hitter would pull the ball to the left side of the field, the risk of shifting would surely be worth it.
A baseball shift diagram is a helpful visualization of how the baseball shift works. It is important to keep in mind that the baseball shift would be much more successful if you are sure that you are up against a pull hitter.
To illustrate, a left-handed hitter may see their opponent’s three or more players moving to one side of the second base to eliminate ground balls.
The baseball shift is not a mere strategy that is based on luck. Shifting is a data-driven strategy and is tried and tested in numerous games in the big league.
Success Percentage of Shift in Baseball
Baseball shift statistics from 2016 to 2022 showed a massive increase in the rate of shifting in baseball.
In 2016, there were over 28,000 shifts, but this number increased to over 59,000 in 2021.
The MLB defensive shifts stats also prove the success of this strategy in baseball, with the winners recording more shifts as the years pass. But some controversies surround the increasing prevalence of this in recent MLB games.
Is the Shift Bad for Baseball?
Of course, it is a common mindset to find a way to win over your opposing team. As teams understand every detail there is to the game, it is imperative that they devise strategies that will give them the upper hand when playing.
As seen in the stats, this shift is successful and effective. However, it opens many discourses regarding the integrity of the game.
Some argue that the shifting strategy jeopardizes the game’s integrity as it is an overpowered defensive maneuver that seemed to be fool-proof.
Furthermore, a pull hitter seemed to have no means to win against such a strategy, and defensive teams exploited such an advantage.
This led to a lower batting average for hitters who ran against teams that implemented the shifting strategy.
Years of doing shifts in baseball led to the conclusion that it is indeed harmful to the players, jeopardizes a hitter’s stats, and overall ruins the fairness of the game.
The New MLB Shift Rule for 2023
Baseball shifts proved to compromise the quality of the games. Hence, the MLB imposed a new rule for this starting in 2023.
During each pitch, teams are required to have a minimum of two infielders on both sides of the second base. All four positions must be stationed on the infield.
Most importantly, the MLB made it clear that infielders are not allowed to switch their positions. The only exception is when a change of player is called for.
Before this rule came about, the game authorities noticed an extreme shift in as much as 33.6% of plate appearances as well as fewer singles and lower batting averages.
To balance the entertainment and athletic components of matches, the MLB finally said that there would be no shift in baseball from 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do they shift in baseball?
A defensive team usually shifts their infielder positions to combat the opposing hitter’s ability to get back a ball in play. The shift will be strategically designed to make sure that the hitter lands an out.
Which baseball team shifts the most?
It is difficult to pinpoint which baseball team shifts the most. This is dependent on the season and year. However, a common report mentions that the Houston Astros made the most shifts during the past few seasons.
The Houston Astros indeed had a lot of success with their strategy.
Is the shift banned in MLB?
The MLB wanted to increase the batting average and give more chances for infielders to play based on traditional baseball sportsmanship.
In 2023, the MLB banned shifts. The new rule now requires a team to have four infielders present on the infield to limit extreme positional changes.
Essentially, the MLB banned any chance for any loopholes in a defensive shift.
Who started the shift in baseball?
Lou Boudreau is an Indian baseball player and manager, and he was noted to be the person to start baseball shifts. At some point, shifts were named Boudreau shifts in honor of the man.
However, one could consider Jimmy Dykes to be the creator of the move, since the White Sox manager was the first person to implement shifts in a match.
A common goal in baseball is to employ strategies that will help you win against your opponent. However, the controversial shifts have shown that not all strategies lead to good and sportsmanlike outcomes.
What is the shift in baseball? This is a strategy where infielders are positioned differently from their traditional posts to take advantage of the hitter.
Through the years, the shifts proved to be successful against both right and left-handed hitters. Hence, many teams have imposed this strategy to their advantage.
Unfortunately, this caught the attention of the MLB, which banned it entirely starting this season in 2023.
A powerful swing and the ball is flying across the field, just one hit, and we might never forget the thrill it brings. I do not know about you, but I never do. Every baseball game is the chance to compete with others and cooperate with your teammate. It is among my biggest passions.