I’m Glad to See MLB Ban The Shift

This week reports have come out that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have agreed to ban extreme defensive shifts. I realize this take puts me in the minority but I’m glad Major League Baseball is going to ban the shift. Oh, sure, I know the arguments for keeping the shift, but I’ll go Fire Joe Morgan on them here.

Major League Hitters Should Just Go The Other Way

Granted, MLB hitters are the best in the world. The problem is MLB pitchers are also the best in the world. In fact, MLB pitchers today are much better at two key aspects of pitching than they’ve ever been: velocity and spin rate.

Modern day MLB pitchers are throwing so much harder than they did in the 90s that we’d need to move the pitching mound back a foot just to give hitters the same reaction time they had 30 years ago. And the pitchers in the 90s were throwing harder than the guys from the 80s who threw harder than…you can see where I’m going here.

To think modern day hitters aren’t as good as their predecessors is foolish. Yes they shoot for power more, but they are also facing faster pitches with more movement than ever before. Pitchers who know the defense has shifted behind them and can feed a certain zone until the hitter either strikes out or hits into the shift.

Shifts Have Always Been A Part Of Baseball

To a degree, yes. Back in the 50s teams would shift on Ted Williams. As I was learning the game in the late 80’s and early 90’s players would take a couple of steps here or there against a certain hitter. Some movement has always been a part of the game.

Back then, though, that movement was based on experience and intuition. At best some spray charts that were written out and represented a sliver of a hitter’s plate appearances.

Nowadays the shifts are dictated by a computer that has been fed every at bat of a guy’s career. There’s no human element involved. The computer knows that if you feed a guy enough fastballs on the inner third of the plate he’ll either strike out or roll a ground ball to a certain spot. Oh yeah, that sounds fun.

And the number of shifts has exploded along with the technology. Last season there were over 59,000 shifts in Major League Games.

I’d rather have games decided by the players rather than algorithms. And I’d rather have balls in play.

They Should Just Bunt

I don’t really have much for this one. Analytics have been great in many ways but the bunt seems to have gone the way of the Blockbuster because of them. If the score is close and you can get a free base, take it.

I don’t exactly pay my ticket money to see some of the game’s greatest sluggers bunt, but it is a free base.

You Can’t Change the Game

Yeah, you can. The last time pitchers had this big of an upper hand MLB voted to lower the pitching mound. 1968 will forever be known as The Year of the Pitcher for this very reason.

Just last year MLB cracked down on pitchers using sticky stuff on the ball to gain an unfair advantage. Why? The league and players wanted games decided by skill not who could generate the the best technical advantage.

Skill instead of who can create the best technical advantage? Yeah, it is close to the same thing.

Determining Where Guys Can Stand Is Stupid

That must be why football has illegal formation penalties and the NBA has illegal defense rules.

This Will Ruin The Game

Not at all. Baseball thrived in the 70s after the pitching mound was lowered. The NFL and NBA change rules every single year yet I don’t see them going out of business. Baseball fans are just the most hesitant to change.

The Data Is On My Side

The Athletic did a great piece looking at what would happen if MLB banned the shift using data from a minor league that did just that. There were 22% more hits taken away by the shift than given away by balls going against a shift. Lefties managed a paltry .219 average on balls in play against a shift versus .247 without it. In short, the shift works and it makes baseball less fun to watch.

The most frustrating part of the shift, per those interviewed, is that the ground ball straight up the middle is now an out. The ball every Little League coach and up tells a guy to hit, is an out. In this case, the hitters are doing a great job and they still can’t get a hit.

No wonder they swing for the fences. Anything else and it is an out.

In Conclusion

Option 1: A hitter stands in against the hardest throwers in MLB history and faces a defense and pitching strategy dictated by a computer so that even if he does everything right and smacks a sharply hit ground ball up the middle it is an out.

Option 2: Change some rules and put more balls in play. Going against a fairer defensive alignment, guys can look to spray the ball a little more and swing for the fences less, creating even more action in the field and likely reducing strikeouts.

Not really a hard choice there, is it?

When I look at baseball now it is a lot different than the game I came to love. There’s not as much action. Not in the field, not on the base paths, not anywhere. There are entire innings where the fielders have little to nothing to do. And that’s a big reason why the game isn’t attracting younger fans.

I’m all for banning the computer generated shifts and making pitchers pitch a guy without a predetermined sequence and outcome. Let’s get the ball back in play, reward the smack up the middle with the hit it has always been, and make the game more fun.

33 Comments
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Mikeal1st
Trusted Member
2 years ago

I’ve always loved hitters like Pete Rose (My favorite until banned) so I love banning the shift. Keep the batter in the batter’s box and even the pitching clock if needed. I want to see Ichiro, Gwyn and Bogs like players making the game exciting and fun to watch. Next, lets figure out a way to increase base stealing and the bunt… Bring back the game I fell in love with!

John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
2 years ago

I am torn on this. The way the players have beaten the shift is to hit more home runs, which is not what people want.

Face it, Baseball as a sport has been really close to “solved” for years now, and optimal play has been seen as boring to many fans. The only way to change this is to change the META so that people have to try new strats.

There were only a fee options MLB could do.

One, change the ball so it won’t go as far. They tried, it didn’t change approaches, and MLB panicked. This is a long term process and needs consistency, something Manfred sucks at. Constantly changing the ball for more or less offense kills trust in the sport.

Two, move the fences. This one has been done by some teams, Baltimore is doing it again this year. If it is harder to hit home runs, it will be less worth it. More teams need to do it or it won’t change anything, however.

Three, ban the shift. This doesn’t change anyone’s approach, but will get more groundballs that become hits which raises averages and make some people happy.

This shift ban doesn’t solve the main issue of swinging for the fences and not caring about balls in play. It is a bandage to try and cover up the main issue that may please some portions of the fans enough to not look into the main issue too closely.

And that is why I am torn. It will bring more balls into play, but will be an obvious rule patch that is just covering up a core issue that has plagued the game. MLB and the players and fans may see this as enough and not deal with the bigger issue that will only get worse.

Eric_in_Portland
Legend
2 years ago

Build new parks that have fences 500 feet from home plate. Balls could get hit over the outfielders’ heads. Fun!

2002heaven
Super Member
2 years ago

Radicals Ideas
*Chop off 2 innings from games, especially since by the end of this decade the 20 game winning SP will be extinct as will the 7 inning SP
*Get rid of the DH and pitchers won’t be able to hit anymore in either league
*Institute tie games during the regular season. That super long game in 2019 between us and the Orioles was just stupid……..
 🤔  🤔  🤔  💪  💪  👈 
BYE!!!

Last edited 2 years ago by 2002heaven
WallyChuckChili
Legend
2 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

Cut the the team in half and only play half the field (owners will be happy). Pitch to your own team, we’ll call it over the line or something.

2002heaven
Super Member
2 years ago

Well I know of one owner who would definitely go for cutting rosters in half. Roger Lodge says he made the Big A better everyday.
 😆  💪  💪 

Mikeal1st
Trusted Member
2 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

Play it on ice!

Mia
Legend
Mia
2 years ago

As long as I never have to see a 10th inning start with a runner on second again, i’m sure i’d adjust to just about anything.

I just want games to start.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mia
2002heaven
Super Member
2 years ago
Reply to  Mia

Institute a soccer style countdown game clock?
 🤔  🤔 ……I had to use emojis.

WallyChuckChili
Legend
2 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

“I had to use emojis ”

Rec’d

Mia
Legend
Mia
2 years ago

Wouldn’t want people thinking he got hacked

steelgolf
Super Member
gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend

I think a lot of us, especially the more staid among us, may be pleasantly surprised by some of these changes. Now, it does depend on how the changes actually physically manifest in the games, but this could be really good.

14 second pitch clock? Longer clock with men on base? I just don’t think anyone who is down on the idea now is going to miss all the nose picking and deep gazing that stretches every at bat into a five minute marathon. Plus, just in case it hasn’t occurred to anyone, the clock starts when the pitcher gets the ball, not when the batter steps into the box. So if you complained that Nomar’s the problem and not pitchers Nomar’s on the clock too.

Even better, those five minute at bats will end in fewer ground outs and short fly balls to right. Moar hits! Move the runner! Blah blah blah. If the current 3 outcome baseball has been boring you as it has many people you will likely be happier now. Sure, you can’t bitch about player’s not being able to just learn to hit the other way or (laughs) bunt their way on all the time as though you yourself would do it if only given the chance, but I’m willing to bet most of us will enjoy a league where a “solid” batting average isn’t .235 a lot more than being able to make that complaint.

I think if they make these rules the games will be more fun more often, and while they may only shave a few minutes off the run time, those will be the minutes that make pitcher’s duels seem like a cheese making lecture.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

Oh my gosh. If good hitters suddenly start GASP…. protecting the strike zone with 2 strikes! That’s the kind of “nothing happening” that actually builds tension and excitement.

I miss tension and excitement.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
2 years ago

Would be good for Fletch too 🙂

Fansince1971
Legend
2 years ago

I’m REALLY happy with this. Maybe it will result in players swinging to hit line drives again instead of simply trying to elevate for a homerun.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  Fansince1971

I think it will. I think, especially among lefty batters, it’s been a few years and most of them know if they can or can’t succeed swinging from their heels. The many that can’t and have been reduced to sub-par platoon players may suddenly see a revival in their game that we will all enjoy.

HRs may get the money and chicks, but I think there is a big chunk of players out there that realize going back to having a .270 average with 40 doubles and just 10 home runs but getting 200 more ABs a year is a good thing and now they can do it.

An example for us could be Jared Walsh. This could be really big news for him.

2002heaven
Super Member
2 years ago

comment image
I wonder if he’ll be allowed to ask hitters to be blindfolded like hitting a piñata? Didn’t win a game last season.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  2002heaven

Why have you posted an image of future Cy Young award winner Packy Naughten as a response to this? Other than your weird need to have him inserted into things….

Which I kind of get. Look at that Swayze style hair…..

matthiasstephan
Super Member
2 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

Well, he wasn’t left in a game long enough to earn a win (even when up). Do you even know how to read the stats?

WallyChuckChili
Legend
2 years ago

I see dead pull hitting to continue. The opposite field outfielder laying down in protest as only 4 guys plus a pitcher has the chance to field a ball hit by guys trying to park it and if they don’t, now get a better chance at a hit b/c the opposite side players now take selfies. Stopping the shift is not going to make hitters spray the ball around, but spraying the ball around would have stopped the shift.

WallyChuckChili
Legend
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

I think of why the shift was used in the 1st place. How guys like Gallo will get rewarded for hard hit pulled balls that don’t go over the fence. David Ortiz could now come out of retirement. Kole would have benefited, yes. He also would have benefited from being a more all around hitter.

I think I would be ok with limiting a 1 player shift vs a Ban

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
2 years ago

 Let’s fix the game with banning the shift and add a 14 sec pitch clock 🔨  🍺 

No banning the beer and I’ll go along with it.

WallyChuckChili
Legend
2 years ago

Theater Stadium style seats everywhere, free refills on sodas, $2.00 Hotdogs and peanuts and I wouldn’t mind 4hr games.

Free Popcorn Mondays
$1.00 Taco Tuesdays.
$5.00 Beer Wednesdays.
$5.00 rotating player sandwich Thursdays.
Big Bang Fridays!
Our elderly ushers dancing Saturdays!
Kids Run the Bases Sunday

Bring back Clyde Wrights BBQ

And I’ll go along with it

Eric_in_Portland
Legend
2 years ago

I’ll live with it if that’s what’s going to happen but I still don’t like it. On the other hand, I’ve been known to dislike some new ideas that turned out to be pretty good.

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
2 years ago

This maybe your best piece yet. OK you convinced me, the old codger among us here. If this helps level the playing field and gets us more hits, then go for it. I would like to see the mound moved back at least a foot also.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend

Agree. This whole post is really well put and makes the issue and point clear. Whether or not people like this idea is up to them, but this post certainly gives them the info to decide.