MLB has had its fair share of problems with the modern shift. It has caused a dip in OBP and BABIP for hitters, mainly lefties, as they seem to always hit into it. It has caused fans and MLB personnel to question whether we should allow it to go on unfiltered. While we don’t want to impede on a manager’s defensive scheme and on strategy, we also want to see lefties be able to hit something other than a home run because the 2B takes all of their pulled liners.
Not the Only Sport To Limit Defense
The NBA famously (in 2001) implemented a rule that made players have to defend a player or the ball. They couldn’t just clog the free throw lane for more than three seconds, and this helped to score a ton, as over the next few years it would slowly climb to the 100 PPG averages we see today. The sport also saw a boost in popularity, as more players were easily able to posterize someone with a monster dunk rather than a hard foul. Alongside better shooters, this made the NBA blow up even more and helped the sport.
Could MLB see the same effect with a change to shifting rules?
Drawing the Line With the MLB Shift
MLB needs to have infielders stay in the dirt, they can’t be in the outfield grass. I love strategy and playing by advanced metrics more than anyone, but shifting is just taking advantage of a lack of rules. You actually need a better strategy if you keep infielders behind the outfield grass to start a play, as now you have to work with said rules. The infielders can move once the ball is hit anywhere on the field, but they shouldn’t start from the outfield.
Also, don’t you miss when players would make more flashy plays? I don’t think the eye test is a good assessment of defense, but it looks cool. Range and arm strength in an infielder are underrated and should be showcased way more.
The Effect on MLB
MLB would see a spike in BABIP and OBP as players get more knocks through. Less cheap hitting in just bunting the other way and more quality hitting. You can see more singled up the middle and rocket line drives to RF rather than hitting a liner, but oh wait… the second baseman is playing short RF. Positionless sports are becoming more and more of a thing but there needs to be a line. If and when the MLB can figure out how to manage the shift, baseball will be more watchable again.
I love the sport, but I love it because I always have. At some point, I won’t be around to love this game, and we need people to watch and fall in love with baseball. We need to make changes to help this game grow, and the shift is part of it.
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