The shift has been a topic of discussion for quite some time. Is it good for baseball? Why don’t hitters just hit the ball the other way? Why not take the bunt single, or sometimes a double when the defense allows it? The recent CBA has announced the shift is going away when 2023 season kicks off and this is why fans, players, and, well, everyone should be excited for the shift to be leaving the game.
Of course the main reason for “banning” the shift is to improve the offense inside the game. The three outcome at-bat has been a problem in baseball the past few years and the shift has a major factor with it. When hard ground balls are sure outs, you can’t blame the players for trying to lift the baseball. Players can’t “shift” beyond the green monster, or in the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
Josh Donaldson was even quoted saying “No” for when a coach tells you to get on top of the baseball. Ground balls in the major leagues are outs. Extra base hits are the excitement that people want to see, whether they admit it or not.
With defensive alignments being more predictable, the hitter will be able to do as he was trained to do. See the ball, hit the ball. It takes a lot of the mental anguish from the game. In the statcast era, it is about exit velocity. Why are we penalizing a guy for roping a one-hopper to right field, but rewarding him for getting jammed and squibbing one to the left side? When there are four outfielders, bullets in the gap are now outs. It’s hard enough to make contact in the big leagues, so when you square one up, you should be standing on first base at the very least.
Pitchers Can Pitch Again
People originally thought that the shift helped the pitching, therefore would make it harder on them again if the shift is removed. While this seems to be true on the surface, lets shine some light the other direction. Joey Gallo steps up to the plate. The outfield now has four guys and the three remaining infielders are now on the right side of the infield. Where does the catcher set up to tell the pitcher to throw? Hard and in. There is no longer the up and down, in and out approach. Many old school fans love when pitchers more the ball around the four quadrants of the strike zone. Restoring the defensive alignment will bring that back to a normal occurrence again.
Pitchers make a great pitch, get a weak ground ball and what do they see? A ball rolling where their shortstop used to be and the batter now standing on first base with a 150-foot single to short. Most pitchers will be more accepting of a laced double in the gap being rewarded than a broken bat bleeder through a vacated spot.
The banning of the shift will allow pitchers to show off their stuff more, instead of busting 98 on the hands and hoping for the ball to be pulled. The art of pitching should be more on display the defenses playing true behind them.
No shift Means Better Defense
So the shift was hurting hitters, pitchers, and now defensive play as well? Yes, and it may even be more extreme than you ever thought. Lets the athleticism be showcased by today’s stars. The shift took way too much of that away.
Lets start with the infield, a place where diving stops and strong arms across the diamond are a thing of beauty. When three infielders were on one side, you were shortening the range that a shortstop or second basemen could show off. The game is full of young stud shortstops. Let’s see them be athletic.
Now to the outfield where anyone can catch a fly ball when they don’t have to move very far. Now a long fly ball that splits defenders can be caught by a player laying out, or roll to the gap for a legged out triple. Or seeing a right fielder come running in on a do or die liner. With the shift, that ball is now caught by a standing third baseman in shallow right field.
Let’s let baseball players be athletes again. More created space allows for more range to covered and dirtier uniforms. It is something this game has missed more than it realizes.
Less Lift with Less Shift
As stated before, the game has seen the three outcome plate appearance. With the home runs come strikeouts and walks. If a strikeout has the same result as a grounder, players will continue to push the lift movement. Why hit the top half of the baseball if the result sends the hitter turning right and heading back to the dugout? If ground balls made it to the outfield, hitters would be more accepting of hitting the ball on the ground. Balls in play bring excitement, as do bang bang plays at first base or dazzling 6-4-3 double plays. The game needs some excitement put back into it and more batted balls in play will certainly do that.
With players needing results to get paid and be liked, home runs have been the path chosen. Most hitters would agree that it is easier to hit a home run right than to ” go the other way”. If that’s a problem for fans, then the game has to adjust the hitting mindset and reward.
Fans deserve excitement brought back to the game. Strikeouts will still happen, but increasing the likelihood of a hitter getting on base with hard hit singles will go a long way in keeping runners moving and plays being made. The game of baseball needs action and this is one step towards improving that.
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