The Problem With Rob Manfred’s Problem With Shifts

Yesterday was Rob Manfred’s first official day on the job, and he didn’t waste any take making headlines. In addition to penning an open letter to the fans, he also sat down with Karl Ravech for an ESPN Sunday Conversation, offering some thoughts on what he saw as priorities to tackle early in his tenure. Some of the points of emphasis are things people have been talking about for a long time — there can be entirely too much time between pitches, and when certain teams get together, the length of the game is a real problem as well — but it was his comments about potentially restricting defensive shifts that got the most attention.

In the context of the conversation about how the game can be improved, Manfred mentioned that the league was looking at ways to “inject additional offense into the game.” And it’s fairly natural that people would draw a connection between the rise in shifting and the decrease in offense around the game. After all, the trend towards non-traditional defensive alignment has picked up a lot of steam in the last five years, the same time period in which offensive output has returned to levels not seen since the early-1990s. Shifts are also highly visible changes to the game, as we have all seen line drives end up as easy outs when a frustrated slugger shakes his head and walks back to the dugout.

But while I appreciate Manfred’s willingness to think about tweaking the game to improve the overall experience, this probably isn’t the best path to pursue.

The primary issue with going after shifts is that there just isn’t a lot of data to suggest that restricting them would actually have a real noticeable impact on the level of offense in the game to begin with. Back in August, Jonathan Judge did an excellent breakdown of the relationship between the rise of the shift and the decline in league offense. From that piece, this table is pretty telling:

Season League wOBAcon Team R/G
1999 0.374 5.08
2000 0.374 5.14
2001 0.367 4.78
2002 0.362 4.62
2003 0.363 4.73
2004 0.367 4.81
2005 0.362 4.59
2006 0.370 4.86
2007 0.370 4.80
2008 0.368 4.65
2009 0.370 4.61
2010 0.364 4.38
2011 0.361 4.28
2012 0.366 4.32
2013 0.364 4.17
2014 0.365 4.11

wOBAcon is wOBA-on-contacted-balls, so this essentially measures the difference in production when a batter puts the ball in play (or hits a home run). As you can see, wOBA-on-contact hasn’t really changed much over the last decade, and the last few years, the run value of balls in play was slightly higher than it was in 2002-2003, when teams were averaging about 4.8 runs per game. We’ve shaved over half a run off that total in the last seven years even as the results of contacted plays haven’t really changed much at all.

Because, as has been well covered, strikeouts are out of control. MLB is setting strikeout records every single season, and now walks trending downwards at the same time strikeouts are heading upwards. Pitchers are dominating the strike zone like they have never before, which is leading to fewer balls in play than MLB has ever seen. The dramatic reduction in offense is primarily the result of fewer contacted balls, not the outcomes of those contacted balls.

It’s not that the shift has zero impact. Clearly, guys like Ryan Howard and Mark Teixeira have been hurt by the shift, and the fact that teams are increasing their usage suggests that there is a benefit, even if league BABIP isn’t changing much at all. After all, batters may simply be hitting the ball harder now, so perhaps league BABIP would be over .300 now if it weren’t for the shift; we can’t simply point to the fact that BABIP hasn’t risen much as evidence that the shift doesn’t work.

But there simply aren’t enough shift plays throughout the year to have a massive impact on league wide run scoring. By the best estimates we have, teams have managed to save something like a couple hundred runs per year with their new defensive alignments. Not per team. Total. Adding back 200 runs to the 2014 total would move the league average of 4.08 R/G all the way up to 4.12 R/G. And that’s if the restrictions on shifting banned every type of shift, and teams responded by never doing it again. Realistically, any proposed restriction would probably be more moderate, so we’re likely looking at an even more marginal change.

If the goal is to add offense back to the game — and I do think that’s probably a worthy goal — then restricting shifts is the wrong solution. Or, at least, not a very meaningful part of the right solution. One could make an aesthetic argument against the shift, but suggesting that it’s going to do much to increase interest in the sport by creating more exciting, higher-scoring games is probably wishcasting.

And beyond the simple fact that it probably wouldn’t even work, I’d suggest that we should think twice before mandating sub-optimal strategies simply to achieve a desired end goal. Even if restricting defensive shifts would help restore offense to the game, I’d still hesitate to create a rule that didn’t allow teams to choose where to place their own fielders. Any time you create a restriction to a benefit, people will attempt to find a way around the restriction, or to get as close to the line as possible, because you’ve simply added an obstacle rather than eliminating the incentive.

If we say that teams can only have two fielders on each side of the second base at the start of the play, do we also limit whether they can be moving at the time of the pitch? Or could a team have the player they want to have shifted start 10 feet to the left of the second base bag, get a running start, and be in the position where he would have started if not for the shift restriction by the time the batter’s contacted ball reaches the shift position? As long as there are extreme pull ground ball hitters, teams will do whatever they can to put their fielders in position where the ball is most likely to go, and creating an arbitrary line for them to stand will just give them another problem to solve on their way to reaching that goal.

Instead, it’s likely better to just let teams put their defenses wherever they want, and let offenses get rid of the shift for you. Whether it’s through improved bunting, players developing better opposite field hitting skills, or simply through the league placing a lower value on bat-only pull-power guys, the market will find an equilibrium if given enough time to sort out this new shifting normal. Just as teams have an incentive to put their defenders in the best spots possible, they also have the same incentive for their own hitters to beat the shift. The shift isn’t an impenetrable fortress that can’t be overcome, and the same people who have found ways to align defenses more optimally will also find ways to help hitters exploit the shift’s flaws.

If MLB wants to add offense back to the game, then their first priority should be forcing the strike zone back to prior dimensions. Train the umpires to stop giving pitchers expanded strike zones, and give hitters a chance to make more contact than they do now. We don’t need better outcomes on contact; we just need more contact in general. And that starts at home plate.

The shift isn’t a serious problem for Major League Baseball, but the strike zone is. Let’s tackle that issue, and then in a few years, if no one has figured out how to beat the shift, maybe we can revisit this far more minor issue.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Ron M.
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Ron M.
1 year 3 months ago

Kark Ravech — ESPNMars reporter?

Josh
Guest
Josh
1 year 3 months ago

He places his sources wherever he wands.

Tom
Member
Tom
1 year 3 months ago

Cameron-Christie 2016

How do we get Rob Manfred to see this?

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

Firstly, what a bizarre ticket THAT would be.

Secondly, just because Rob Manfred could theoretically read this article, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d agree with it and decide to keep the shift. Leading horses to water, can’t make em drink, etc.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 3 months ago

I should think both drafting a workable regulation that curtails shifts in any way that isn’t largely cosmetic, and then finding ways to have the umpers first interpret then enforce that regulation, would prove out to be way more trouble than too much – especially when, as Cameron argues here, the effects shifting have on offense are decidedly marginal.

It’s not as if Manfred’s new to MLB. Surely he was engaged in some combination of attempting to bond with mythical Joe “6 Pack” Couchpotato fan, while simultaneously throwing fans who drag their actual fannies into MLB ballpark seats and follow sites like this a high hard troll right under the chin.

If not … jeez, I sure do NOT wish to express regret at Bud The Breathing Walking Conflict Selig finally leaving.

Joe
Guest
Joe
1 year 3 months ago

a smart guy and a fascist?
weird.

schlomsd
Member
schlomsd
1 year 3 months ago

Why do you think Cameron is a fascist?

Ullu Ka Patta
Guest
Ullu Ka Patta
1 year 3 months ago

Re: fascist.

People keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

Iron
Guest
Iron
1 year 3 months ago

fascism: any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism

The usage seems fine.

Carson's Johnny
Guest
Carson's Johnny
1 year 3 months ago

That is both a pretty piss poor definition and one that does not apply here.

Yeah
Guest
Yeah
1 year 3 months ago

Fascism: Literally anyone I don’t like. – Merriam Webster(trust me on this one)

The usage seems fine.

Plucky
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Plucky
1 year 3 months ago

“Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’ ”

-George Orwell (yes, that one), “Politics and the English Language”, 1946
https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

doug K
Member
doug K
1 year 3 months ago

Mr Cameron is completely right again IMHO.

In addition to getting the strike zone right, there are other less intrusive things that could be done such as lowering the mound. That worked great in the late 60’s and might even have more impact now with all the very tall pitchers throwing with such an extreme downhill plane.

Artificial rules like abolishing shifts should be relegated to problems that cant be solved with other means. This reminds me of banning zone defense in the NBA.

Free_AEC
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

The strike zone is huge.

Checked swings no longer exist.

These two changes are the primary reason Ryan Howard no longer has a viable career.

Who made these changes? There was never any discussion publicly. Who was complaining that the strike zone was too small? Who was complaining that checked swings should not exist at all?

Jim
Guest
Jim
1 year 3 months ago

There was a time when the rule on checked swings seemed to be: If the ball struck the bat, would the ball make it out of the infield. If it could, it was a strike, if it wouldn’t it was a check swing.

Matt
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

I’m confused. How would you use this rule on a bunt attempt?

Mike
Guest
Mike
1 year 3 months ago

I always thought the rule for a check swing was if any part of the barrel of the bat advances beyond the front of the home plate, it is a swing. Otherwise, check swing.

John Middleton
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John Middleton
1 year 3 months ago

“Who made these changes?”

It was me.

Yeah
Guest
Yeah
1 year 3 months ago

Oh you!

Igloo
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Igloo
1 year 3 months ago

I immediately downvote any comment from Free_AEC.

Jason B
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Jason B
1 year 3 months ago

But these things (and only these things) are why Ryan Howard sucks!! Don’t you see?!

Highlight and Google: ILL-TIMED, ILL-CONCEIVED CONTRACT EXTENSIONS THAT SET A FRANCHISE BACK YEARS AND WERE ALBATROSSES FROM DAY ONE

Malcom-Jamal Hegyes
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Malcom-Jamal Hegyes
1 year 3 months ago

I just spat out my afternoon beverage

shoewizard
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shoewizard
1 year 3 months ago

Actually I remember thinking and might have even advocated they should probably expand the strike zone a little back in the hey day of silly ball.

oops

siljgd
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siljgd
1 year 3 months ago

The way to get offense back up is to wait a while. Offensively levels in baseball are always changing, they’ll go back up on their own.

ajmack130
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ajmack130
1 year 3 months ago

I completely agree. I don’t see anything wrong with 1980s/early 1990s level offensive baseball anyway. Better than steroid era slow-pitch softball.
Pace of play is a much larger problem, in my opinion. I say work on that, improve instant replay and look at the still-confusing catcher blocking the plate rule.

Anon21
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Anon21
1 year 3 months ago

You nailed my concerns about implementation, which I doubt Manfred has thought through. I don’t think baseball has any rules at all about defenders’ positioning right now save for those that dictate the position of the pitcher (and maybe there’s something about the catcher?). Implementing some kind of anti-shift rule would be a pretty big change in the subjects of baseball rulemaking.

Bryan
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Bryan
1 year 3 months ago

Other than the somewhat specialized positioning for the pitcher and catcher, I believe the only other rule on defensive positioning is that all the players must initially be positioned in fair territory. Catchers, obviously, are specifically excepted from that rule.

Krog
Guest
Krog
1 year 3 months ago

Also, 406 (b) No fielder shall take a position in the batter’s line of vision, and with deliberate unsportsmanlike intent, act in a manner to distract the batter.

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
1 year 3 months ago

“Instead, it’s likely better to just let teams put their defenses wherever they wand, and let offenses get rid of the shift for you. Whether it’s through improved bunting, players developing better opposite field hitting skills, or simply through the league placing a lower value on bat-only pull-power guys, the market will find an equilibrium if given enough time to sort out this new shifting normal.”

This, I think, is the correct response.

Darkstone42
Member
Darkstone42
1 year 3 months ago

Bunting for a hit is the new market inefficiency.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 3 months ago

wOBAcon?

I’m getting hungry already…..

YABooble
Member
YABooble
1 year 3 months ago

Weighted On-Bacon Percentage = percent of weight gain caused by bacon.

Alex Dodd
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Alex Dodd
1 year 3 months ago

Jesus Montero put up a solid 0.600 last spring training. The only reason it’s not higher is due to the hamburgers sandwiched around the bacon.

AaronBurrOG
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AaronBurrOG
1 year 3 months ago

I personally thought it was a convention to celebrate the glory of wOBA, but yeah, that too.

Paul Sorrento
Guest
Paul Sorrento
1 year 3 months ago

Wait, that’s not what it is? I already had a tiger suit picked out to dress up in!

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

Is it honestly so incredibly difficult to bunt towards the hole that a shift leaves? I understand that the hitters that usually get shifted aren’t really dangerous on the basepaths and don’t ordinarily bunt in any situation, but a man on first has to be better than nobody on with one less out for the offense to work with.

Josh
Guest
Josh
1 year 3 months ago

The (perhaps flawed) rebuttal to this idea is that most of the players who are heavily shifted are pull-hitting boppers like Ortiz. He’s laid down a few successful bunts into the shift but his job is to hit homers. And doubles too. So he might have a 50% chance or so of bunting successfully until someone catches on and keeps a third baseman over there. The whole thing is an exercise in borderline futility.

siljgd
Guest
siljgd
1 year 3 months ago

What are you talking about? A 50% chance of getting on base is GREAT. And the whole point, of course, is to keep the third baseman over there, opening a spot for him to actually hit the ball into.

LHPSU
Guest
LHPSU
1 year 3 months ago

The only people qualified to answer that will probably be people who’ve tried to bunt 90mph fastballs and major league curveballs.

Miss or foul off a bunt, and you put yourself behind in the count, making it even less likely that you’ll get on base. Or you could lay down a bunt that ends up other than where you want it, resulting in an out. I would imagine that the aggregate chance of the bunt resulting in a hit is maybe 20% for a player with average speed.

Neil
Member
Neil
1 year 3 months ago

From March 2014, on this site: “I came up with just over 200 attempts over two years. Of those attempts, 38% were bunted fair, and 25% of the bunts resulted in the batter reaching base, either on a hit or an error. In other words, one of four attempted bunts put the batter on, but two of three bunts in play worked out”

So, that’s a 25% success rate *per* *attempt* using only the slow-footed pull-hitters who get shifted as your population. Well worth the risk.

Dave Cornutt
Guest
Dave Cornutt
1 year 3 months ago

I wonder, though, if teams will still look at as a variation of the Barry Bonds strategy: keep the shift on even if he gets pretty good at bunting, because over time the slugging percentage probably still comes out lower. In theory at least.

If a lot of sluggers start bunting or chopping grounders to the opposite side, and they’re getting on base with that, but teams keep the shift on anyway, then it will be time for rule changes. Until then, I say leave it alone and let the game adjust, because it usually does over time.

schlomsd
Member
schlomsd
1 year 3 months ago

It must be because most of them don’t even try.

Ryan Vooris
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1 year 3 months ago
Trotter76
Guest
Trotter76
1 year 3 months ago

Nobody wants to make Colby Lewis mad, that’s the only reason they don’t bunt against the shift.

Stylin
Guest
Stylin
1 year 3 months ago

I thought the idea with expanding the strike zone was to shorten the average game-time. I am all for compacting the zone and bringing in the walls if the game speeds up in some other way.

Slacker George
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Slacker George
1 year 3 months ago

Crocodile-filled moats dividing the traditional fielder zones.

Your welcome.

Mike P
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Mike P
1 year 3 months ago

Adjusting the strike zone probably won’t have much of an affect either. Guys who are hackers are going to hack no matter what. We just seem to have a larger number of them than usual. It might make a small difference when guys get two strikes, but overall you wouldn’t see a bug uptick on offense.

Right now guys who can walk 80 to 100 times, but don’t have power, are not in demand. As soon as the vacuum gets big enough, the scouts will look for more guys like that and then in three or four years there will be a bunch of guys who can walk a bunch.

You see these cycles all the time. Suddenly there’s only three good everyday catchers and then bang, in a couple of seasons there are 10 or 11, because teams told their scouts to go get catchers, some good third basemen were converted, etc.

Systemic change
Guest
Systemic change
1 year 3 months ago

That’s way too idiosyncratic to explain the highest strikeouts in history.

Ryan Doumit
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Ryan Doumit
1 year 3 months ago

And if you reduce the value of framing, you’ll get a lot more offense. Not counting what I bring to the table.

Josh
Guest
Josh
1 year 3 months ago

Adjusting the strike zone would absolutely have a dramatic affect. More people would get on base by virtue of 3 ball or 2 strike counts ending differently. Pitchers would have less room for error, which would lead to more “sweet spot” pitches and thus more hits, home runs, etc. Ridiculous “batting eye” OBP types (think JD Drew, B. Abreu, Youkilis) would become even more absurd. The tier below them would seem just as elite. Strikeouts would naturally decline with the smaller zone alone, but also by reducing how “enticing” a biting slider down and away or a curveball in the dirt looks, as the hitter has more margin for error. The effects would actually probably take a couple years to figure out but there is undoubtedly a massive effect and domino type effect that you don’t seem to be considering.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 3 months ago

Agreed. Just looking at BA/OBP/SLG for the various count states (0-1 count, 1-0 count, etc.) indicates that strike zone changes would be pretty massive in promoting or discouraging offense.

Unapologetic Observer
Guest
Unapologetic Observer
1 year 3 months ago

David Schoenfield wrote: ‘Shifts are a contributor, but not a big one. BIS estimated the number of runs saved via shifting in 2014 at 195 runs across the majors — or 6.5 runs per team, on average, over the entire season.

The average team scored 659 runs in 2014. Ten years ago in 2004, the average team scored 779 runs. So those 6.5 runs explain just 5 percent of the decline in offense over the past 10 years. ‘

Of course, I think we need to remember that is an average he’s referring to, and that the more aggressive teams, and the ones better at implementing and executing shifts, might very well be getting much better results.

Unapologetic Observer
Guest
Unapologetic Observer
1 year 3 months ago

he went on to echo the sentiment in this article, ‘Of course, not all teams are heavy users of the shift so we’ll likely continue to see more shifts in upcoming seasons and a resulting effect in runs scored. But it will remain a relatively minor effect. The biggest reason for the decline in offense, of course, is the increase in strikeouts. The batting average on balls in play (taking home runs out of the equation) was .299 in 2014. In 2004, it was .297. It peaked at .303 in 2007. In the early ’90s — a level of run scoring similar to now — it was .287 in 1990 and .285 in 1991 and 1992. In fact, batting average on balls in play actually increased in 2014 from .297 in 2013 despite over 5,000 more shifts employed.

But there were 731 more strikeouts in 2014 than in 2013 and 5,613 more than 2004.

If the new commissioner wants more offense, he has to cut down on the strikeouts. That means changing the strike zone or lowering the mound. ‘

Omar Daal
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Omar Daal
1 year 3 months ago

Well, if he’s serious about banning shifting, Manfred may as well reduce strikeouts by prohibiting off-speed pitches.

Eric R
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Eric R
1 year 3 months ago

Or four strikes and you’re out :)

octelium
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octelium
1 year 3 months ago

So what is the weighted run value of 5613 strikeouts?

Maybe 3 balls should be a walk and 4 strikes a strike out?

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Complaining about the shift while being fully capable of bunting for a single pretty much whenever you want is the same as complaining about the pitcher not giving you anything to hit while you’re swinging and chasing at everything within a time zone of the plate.

Andrew
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Andrew
1 year 3 months ago

Bunting for a single is a little bit harder than you seem to think. Scratch that, a lot harder, with a far lower potential reward.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
1 year 3 months ago

I watched Moustakas bunt for a single in the playoffs last year, so at times it’s viable, but it kinda feels like a trick play, like the punter throwing a touchdown pass.

JamesDaBear
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

…which just happened in the NFC Championship game. Trick plays are legal and opponents have to prepare for them a little bit.

DL80
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DL80
1 year 3 months ago

But weren’t we all complaining a few years ago that the official strike zone in the rule book wasn’t be called correctly by umps? (I was, at least) If they want to change the way it is called, I’d prefer that it actually get changed in the rule book then, rather than just saying “Well, call it incorrectly the way you guys used to.”

I think the bigger reason is that pitchers are throwing much harder than they were a few years ago. It’s gone from 90.9 in 2007 to 92.0 in 2013: http://triblive.com/sports/mlb/5423918-74/mph-velocity-cole#axzz3Px55dWs5

And I would bet that it was even lower pre-2007. I’m not sure the shoulder strengthening in that article explains it all, as weight training in general over the past 20+ years probably has a lot to do with it.

But I don’t think changing the strike zone will make guys throw any slower.

Jason B
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Jason B
1 year 3 months ago

That’s a fair point; whatever they lop off the bottom (and edges) of the zone needs to be called correctly at the top of the zone. Letter-high strikes are a rare thing indeed.

Dave Cornutt
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Dave Cornutt
1 year 3 months ago

I agree… the current strike zone is in part due to the emphasis over the last decade on calling the zone correctly, and using the technology to evaluate it. The umps are finally calling it per the rule book, so if it needs an adjustment, that process needs to begin with the rule book.

craig
Guest
craig
1 year 3 months ago

Watching couple players take called 3rd strikes tonight on 2014 retro cast on Mariners Baseball channel. These were both real tight, one on Ms’ CF Jackson and the other called Strike 3 on I don’t remember who. Anyway, man in scoring position: don’t underestimate the possibility of getting a better hack at a 3-2 pitch or the offensive strength of drawing a walk vs. striking out! Must adust the Zone.

Doug Gray
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

My issue with shifting is that it only means that left handers have to change their approach. That only left handers should learn to bunt or learn to go the other way. Right handed hitters will never have to face this problem because when they hit hard grounders that get through a normal defense or liners that get through a normal defense there isn’t a guy out there that can throw them out from 80 feet deep into the left field grass at first base. When lefties do the same thing, the ball goes to right and there are guys that can throw it to first in enough time from 80 feet deep into right field.

If the 13500 shifts used in baseball last year were close to effecting right handers as much as left handers, then I wouldn’t have an issue. I don’t have the numbers, but my gut tells me it’s probably like 80-20 on how the shift is utilized for LHH vs RHH and that is a problem in the game.

Will making it so guys have to stay on their side of the infield make the biggest difference? No. The strikezone being called properly will. But making it so a line drive to short right field continues to be a hit instead of a “ground out” like it’s been for 150 years is a step in the right direction.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 3 months ago

I think I’ve seen some kind of shift on right handers before. Obviously the 1B can’t play as far away from the bag as the 3B would, but they can still put the SS in shallow LF and the 2B more or less up the middle.

Lefty and righty hitters already have things very differently. A lefty can get away with being a hopeless hitter against LHP, while a righty has to be able to hit RHP. It’s well documented they have different strike zones, with lefties getting pitches far outside called against them pretty often.

Tommy
Guest
Tommy
1 year 3 months ago

Plenty of righties get shifted. It’s just not as extreme a shift as the one guys like Ortiz face, but I see quite a few teams shift McCutchen by having the second baseman play very close to the bag and have the shortstop closer to the hole.

Dave Cornutt
Guest
Dave Cornutt
1 year 3 months ago

Yeah, I watched some teams shift on Gattis last year. One thing to remember is that most of the hitters that get shifted on are relatively slow-footed, so the cannon-armed shortstops that abound now have no problem throwing them out from shallow left.

IHateJoeBuck
Member
IHateJoeBuck
1 year 3 months ago

Lefties also get the advantage of starting closer to first base. The slight increase on infield hits probably offsets the additional shifts lefties face.

Doug Gray
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

No, it doesn’t.

Plucky
Guest
Plucky
1 year 3 months ago

Something like ~10% of the overall population is left-handed. Something like 25% of pitching PA’s and something like 40% of batter PA’s are from the left side. Baseball is plenty advantageous to lefties, let’s not get broken up over one disadvantage. If you are about to argue “but, but… lots of those PA’s are from natural righties” then I will respond: baseball is so advantageous to lefties that a large number of right-hand dominant people learn to bat in an otherwise suboptimal way

RichW
Member
RichW
1 year 3 months ago

Baseball is more advantageous to lefty pitchers only. Left handed throwers who are not pitchers are at a significant disadvantage no matter how they bat because 4 of 8 positions are unavailable to them at competitive levels. Some mitigation comes from batting left, but a small light hitting left handed person has no chance to be an infielder 2B, 3B, SS vs an identical right handed person. I’m not convinced with the argument that RH people batting left is sub optimal. It’s more complex than that. A person can have a dominant hand different than their handedness suggests and not all RH are or were right handed.

An argument can be made that RH people batting right may be sub optimal but it was preferred taught and promoted in early baseball through convention, conformity and bias of society at the time against left handedness in general. At the the beginnings of baseball it was not unusual for schoolchildren to have their left hand tied behind their back to force them to use their right hand. That would have been a powerful motivator to conform when playing games.

It is interesting to note that hockey has the opposite dominance from baseball. Most players shoot left despite being right handed and that convention or bias or teaching affects how Canadians transition to baseball. At the WBC in 2013 the Canadian team had 13 players who batted left and threw right. That clearly suggests something other than handedness at work.

mohawkwarrior
Member
mohawkwarrior
1 year 3 months ago

On one hand, Manfred says that length of game is a concern. On the other, he suggests eliminating the shift, thereby increasing offence and likely lengthening the duration of the game. Seems very fundamentally contradictory.

daniel cumings
Guest
daniel cumings
1 year 3 months ago

I have a great idea for both speeding up the game and making every pitch that much more interesting. It may even increase scoring. It doesn’t require additional equipment like timers or robot umpires, and it would impact the game so minimally that, in a few years, no one will even remember the old way of playing baseball. Here goes: 3 balls and you walk. 2 strikes and you’re out. Where do I go to collect my royalty checks?

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 3 months ago

I think there was a question like this in effectively wild a while ago, except in that question, a foul was always a strike, so if you hit it foul with one strike you’re out. A plate appearance can’t be longer than 4 pitches. That was a little extreme for me.

me
Guest
me
1 year 3 months ago

If all foul balls were strikes that would drastically reduce the scoring in baseball. There are plenty of pitchers that can throw strikes that can’t be easily put in play but are easy to foul off. The game would be nothing but boring foul strike outs and weak grounders. It would make baseball unbelievably boring.

Phil Hughes
Guest
Phil Hughes
1 year 3 months ago

And make me a Hall of Famer.

Wade Boggs
Guest
Wade Boggs
1 year 3 months ago

I am also opposed to this change in the rules. In my ideal at bat, I see as many pitches as I do beers in the clubhouse: just the right number.

LeeTro
Guest
LeeTro
1 year 3 months ago

This would decrease scoring, essentially the same as starting hitters with a 1-1 count. Leaguewide, hitters put up a .233/.300/.353 slash line after getting to a 1-1 count, well below league average.

ajmack130
Guest
ajmack130
1 year 3 months ago

This is what they do in slow pitch softball, start with a 1-1 count. It’s fine there. It would ruin baseball.

Jay Stevens
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Jay Stevens
1 year 3 months ago

Baseball can’t win. Ifeatures MLB leaves the strike zone as is, strikeouts dominate, offense dwindles. If MLB restores the strike zone, walks and offense surges, but game times lengthen.

Maybe is looking to eliminating the shift as a way of increasing scoring without an undue increase in game time.

Jay Stevens
Guest
Jay Stevens
1 year 3 months ago

Sorry bout typos. Fat fingers on a phone.

Let's just follow the rules
Guest
Let's just follow the rules
1 year 3 months ago

They can do both. Enforce the rules already in the book as pertains to the length between pitches, and stop making the ballparks smaller every year.

willie-boy
Guest
willie-boy
1 year 3 months ago

The idea of making certain defensive shifts illegal is insane. Who wants to spend their time arguing the subtleties of that one every time some lumbering lefty comes up. C’mon, this is not hockey and we do not need a great catch being nullified because the shortstop was offsides.

That Dave Cameron says it’s not a factor in offense being down is just the icing on the cake.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
1 year 3 months ago

I could accept the increase in shift as a *small* part of a number of reasons for the decline in offense, along with better defensive scounting reports. Let’s add in teams’ willingness to go to their bullpens faster, a shift towards agility training and not so much strength training…and the big duh, PED testing.

Smurf
Guest
Smurf
1 year 3 months ago

Remember all that talk a few years ago about how “we have to reorganize the divisions! The AL East is too strong and it’s not fair!”…

…Well, this defensive shift business is the same level of whining. Baseball has always been, and will always be a game of adjustments. Can’t adjust? Good luck. The idea that we’d need to dumb down defensive strategy in order to play up dumb hitters isn’t going to help the game.

Sad to see we’re entering an era of a new commish who’s willing to make such drastic changes without first objectively considering whether or not they’re going to solve the perceived problem. This is bad judgement driven by terrible evaluation. Not what baseball needs.

Jon L.
Guest
Jon L.
1 year 3 months ago

I’ve always thought that one of the most amazing things about baseball is that most fielders play wherever they want. The nature of the game dictates positioning. As is, almost every team decides they need a guy near first, a guy near third, two guys that can cover more ground (and second base) in the middle of the field, and three guys spread very widely across the outfield. Arbitrarily limiting shifts feels unnatural to me, like outlawing clever solutions on an exam, or making people stay in their ticketed nosebleed seats when it’s the 8th inning and the Dodgers trail by 4.

David
Guest
David
1 year 3 months ago

Let’s add speed limits to pitches, too. Maybe we can have everyone chuck it up there at 80 mph. Or let’s just put it on a tee for them like we do for little kids! Yay! Offense!

Mob Banfred
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Mob Banfred
1 year 3 months ago

Check out that smile you guys.

MIke
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MIke
1 year 3 months ago

I hope the MLB doesn’t end up like the NHL. It’s hard to watch a sport where two-line passes get diminished, neutral zones get smaller, goalie equipment gets smaller while nets get bigger…and that horrendous show they put on at the end of a game (shootout), all in an attempt to increase scoring.

One thing I really enjoy about baseball is that it is always evolving. Eras of pitcher or hitter dominance make the game more exciting. If you allow the game to correct itself, you’ll get a more exciting game.

Marsupial Jones
Guest
Marsupial Jones
1 year 3 months ago

-The Two line pass was implemented in 1943. 26 years after the NHL was founded. Its not like it was a founding rule of the game. They implemented for the same reason they took it out. To improve the game (which, by the way, they have been doing since the NHL was created. Its not a modern thing to tinker with the game).

-Goalie equipment hasnt gotten so much “smaller” as it has gotten “not ridiculously, illegally huge”.

-The size of nets has not changed

-The shootout is stupid.

Let's just follow the rules
Guest
Let's just follow the rules
1 year 3 months ago

From the data I have seen, the strike zone is now called much more closer to the rule book’s definition of it. There is no issue. Some of the things he SHOULD be doing are:

1. If a pitch hits a batter’s armor, it’s a ball and not a free base. I’m tired of seeing guys get hit in their pads as they lean over the plate.

2. Follow the rule book and make hitters actually keep their back foot in the batter’s box, rather than kicking away the back line in the first inning and then placing half of their foot outside of it. Either go with the umpires judgement of the hitter’s knee height, or put a computer in to make the decision, and keep the ump there for things like

3. Make hitters stay in the box in between pitches, and call them out if they leave the box more than once. (strike on the first attempt.)

4. Make a minimum length to weight ratio on bats and make the bat handles have to be wider. I would much rather see less pitchers getting hit in the head from a comebacker that is traveling 120 MPH, than to let the people who can’t follow strategy of the game, see a few extra home runs. While you are at it, move the fences back so more exciting triples and inside the park homeruns happen. (This may also help offense, since the fielders have more ground to cover, and has the side effect of allowing less fat hitters to stand in the outfield and try to resemble an outfielder.)

5. Drop the DH. Teams should find a way to have good hitting pitchers if they want to exploit an until now, ignored advantage.

6. Stop making it easier and easier for hitters, and allow the game to progress. Hitters can learn how to hit with 2 strikes again, or hit to the opposite field if they want a higher average. The game is fine.

7. Start kicking people out of the park for interfering with balls in play. There are plenty of fans, the idiots that interrupt play should be banned for life.

Burleigh Grimes
Guest
Burleigh Grimes
1 year 3 months ago

Let’s make the list an even 10:

8. Allow the spitball again. I’d much rather see these young pitchers learn that old-school craftsmanship than have to bulk up, get hurt, and transplant tendons from all across their body.

9. Bring back the top of the strike zone to the shoulders, where it supposed to be. There’s no room for pitchers to strategize about going up the ladder if you don’t have the top half of the strike zone.

10. Make home plate twice as wide. I would much rather see less catchers getting hurt trying to block their plate than batters wasting their time taking perfectly nice pitches thrown a few inches too close or too far based upon the small current home plate. And, fewer balls will definitely speed up game time.

Dave Cornutt
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Dave Cornutt
1 year 3 months ago

Upvoted. But he’s got some good points. #1, ironically, would be fixed by following the rule book; if the batter is touched by a pitch that is in the strike zone, it should be a strike. I’ve seen this called a few times the last two years. #3, making the batter stay in the box, is something that a lot of people are looking it.

#2 was more of a problem in the ’90s — not too many hitters stand that far back in the box any more. On #4, I would like to see a minimum-diameter rule for the bat handle, to cut down on broken bats (especially the particularly dangerous ones where the entire bat head flies off). #7 is already done in every ball park I’ve seen. The last time I saw a fan interfere and get away with it was Jeffrey Maier, and that was nearly 20 years ago.

E
Guest
E
1 year 3 months ago

#11. Why don’t players just practice and be better hitters? they obviously don’t practice and train enough like they did back in my day.

Plucky
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Plucky
1 year 3 months ago

I’m not sure what data you’ve been seeing, but last year THT published a comprehensive look with pitchf/x data by Jon Roegele:
http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-strike-zone-during-the-pitchfx-era/

He found the area in square inches typically called a strike increased by about 25-30 sq inches from 2008 to 13, with expansion downward at the bottom of the zone being larger than the tightening on the outside corner

LWOSmaldonado
Guest
LWOSmaldonado
1 year 3 months ago

Manfred also proposed to make “RBI” the official stat of the MLB

Tom Brady
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Tom Brady
1 year 3 months ago

Too many whiffs recently?

Sounds like your balls have been deflated.

Compton
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Compton
1 year 3 months ago

Given baseball’s very recent past, is “inject” really the best verb to use when describing the attempt to increase offense?

Jan Zelezny
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Jan Zelezny
1 year 3 months ago

The article and comments are based on (1) the effectiveness of defensive shifts, (2) the cause of the runs-per-game decrease, and (3) some aesthetic of the game being impacted by restricting shifts. Regarding the effectiveness of defensive shifts, I am not convinced that quoting a relatively stable wOBAcon is sufficient to disregard the value of shifting. There are an awful lot of variables that go into the value of balls in fair play, and there may have been one variable with a positive impact that negates the impact that shifts may have. Granted, maybe there is more compelling evidence going on with Shift Runs Saved, but I don’t know enough about that measure to comment.

While I question efficient markets (especially with only 30 players in the market), I struggle to see so many organizations increasing their shifting without solid evidence that it has an impact. The rise in strikeouts is much less ambiguous, and almost assuredly has a larger impact on runs per game; however, based on the data provided with wOBAcon, it is cavalier to state that defensive shifts have a minimal impact on runs per game.

Jintman
Guest
Jintman
1 year 3 months ago

What bothers me is that this information is easily accessible,but yet the new Commissioner doesn’t know it but goes on a large public forum to talk about potentially limiting shifting. smfh

Aaron B.
Guest
Aaron B.
1 year 3 months ago

Wind the balls tighter. Done

Sax
Member
Sax
1 year 3 months ago

want more offense?? how about NL dh

Bert
Guest
Bert
1 year 3 months ago

The strike zone is finally getting called the way it should be,leave it alone! there are many reasons why offense is down, the strike zone isn’t the problem. a few of the reasons are:

Batters only seeing starting pitchers twice through the order in many cases

Endless parade of 95 and a plus secondary out of the pen

Showcases. Great for getting kids exposure, terrible at helping the learn how to play the game. especially hitting.

Sabermetrics. gave hitters a license to strikeout 150-200 times as long as they can hit a HR 5% of their AB’s. Guys don’t even try to make adjustments anymore they swing for the fence on every single pitch.

E
Guest
E
1 year 3 months ago

you kind of contradict yourself; there’s no time for players to make adjustments when they are seeing 4 different pitchers a game, who, like you said, all throw 95, and when everyone throws 95, everyone strikes out more.

je
Guest
je
1 year 3 months ago

lol

RichW
Member
RichW
1 year 3 months ago

So sabermetrics gave contracts to Howard and Byrd and Trout and Desmond? They led MLB in K’s last year. I know 2 of those 4 are really good.

I can state with confidence that some of the greats of the past might have some trouble making good contact with the pitching today. All you have to do is look at old games with the junk being thrown by pitchers and some of the loopy swings batters took back then. Strikeouts would rule.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
1 year 3 months ago

You’re being far too kind to Manfred, Dave. It was an asinine suggestion by a guy whose 1st day on the job was less than stellar, too put it mildly.

Matt
Guest
Matt
1 year 3 months ago

Is this laying the groundwork for the strike zone hologram? Not sure I feel good about that. The casual fan would sure love it, though.

R2-D2
Guest
R2-D2
1 year 3 months ago

Bee-boo-beep. (I concur.)

BMac
Member
BMac
1 year 3 months ago

I totally agree with you, Dave, about the strike zone being the key and not shifting.

It infuriates me that they want to impose silly rules on the great game of baseball before they consider returning to the rule book and following it.

I think mlb.com and other online tools for watching the game have embarrassed umpires into widening what was a very small strike zone. But we can all see that they continue to give pitchers the low strike, which is actually a ball, while rarely granting the more dangerous high strike.

They should stop giving the low strike and the borderline pitches, give back the high strike, and offense will blossom once again.

No rule change required.

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