A Big Change Could Be Coming to Infield Shift Limits

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A Big Change Could Be Coming to Infield Shift Limits

Chicago Cubs

You are likely already long aware that (1) infield shift limits have been in place at various levels of the minor leagues for experimental purposes, and (2) there are highly likely to be some kinds of shift limits in place in MLB in 2023.

What you may not have been aware of, since I think no one outside of MLB knew until Jayson Stark just reported it, is that MLB is still tinkering with exactly what those shift limits might look like.

Generally, the approach had been to require two infielders on the infield dirt on each side of second base. Good start. What that left open, though, is the ability to still pull off some pretty dramatic shifts, since one of your infielders can still line up practically straight up the middle. That’s still, what, 80% of the point of the extreme shift that MLB is trying to eliminate in the first place? No surprise, the shifting limits in the minors have not yet had a huge impact on groundballs finding holes (and it hasn’t been long or certain enough to actually impact long-term batter behavior).

Well, back to Stark’s scoop:

The picture largely tells the story, which is that the shift would still be two on each side of second base on the infield dirt, BUT there would be a 90-degree section behind second base where no defender could stand. Imagine the baseline extended past second base in each direction, and that’s where the line would be. So you can still play up the middle if you want, but you’re gonna have to be pretty darn shallow to do it.

On first blush, this is a very sensible change. If you’re going to limit shifts at all – and I think it’s pretty critical, long-term, to getting a little more action on the field from both batters AND from defenders – then it’s pretty clear that you’ve gotta do some version like this.

A little data from Codify about what has happened to the single up the middle, and just how stark the change has been:

My big question now is whether MLB will get enough data from a half-season in one Low-A league to know whether this is the right approach, or if there was some unforeseen issue. And if it’s not enough time/data, then how can MLB implement a shift ban as soon as 2023?

That is to say, on the one hand, this looks like a really well-informed, smart change to the shifting ban. On the other hand, I wonder if it’s too late in the game to make this change and bring this more specific ban to the big leagues next year (when MLB really needs to get on this stuff asap!).

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.