The MLB Shift Ban and What It Means For Baseball
Photo Courtesy of BHHS Today
Baseball has always been a slower sport and in 2022, it was no different. The average game in the MLB lasted 3 hours and 3 minutes, the longest average game span in the last 50 years. With the baseball audience shrinking, the MLB made rule changes that would change the league forever, including adding a pitch clock and banning defensive shifts.
An infield shift in baseball is defined as a defensive realignment away from infielders’ traditional starting points based on different scenarios dealing with the batter. This defensive strategy has been used in the league for years and has really been picking up traction in the last couple of years, especially against left handed hitters.
This new rule will ban all shifts, require that there must be two infielders on each side of second, and all infielders must have their feet in the dirt, instead of the rotation to the outfield that sometimes takes place in the case of a lefty at the plate. It is a rule that will most likely benefit batters with gifted singles, especially for left handed hitters, and will probably boost the offensive rating of nearly all teams in the MLB.
Defensively, the shift ban is going to make it harder on infielders to make plays because of the specificity of the ban, but the plays they do make in the infield will be spectacular more often, or in MLB stats terms, there will be more OAA (Outs Above Average).
This ban isn’t just to make the games higher scoring (2022 was the lowest scoring season in the last 20 years and had a historically low home run count for the first 4 months). It is part of a marketing strategy by Major League Baseball that is designed to get people back into the once incredibly popular “American Sport.”
Baseball isn’t the most entertaining sport to watch and the league knows it, but obviously there are still millions of fans out there. However, when a season comes along like this one with pitching duels nearly every game, routine plays in the infield, and longer games, the MLB has no choice but to make its product more entertaining. It doesn’t help that right around the time the league picked up steam in the playoff hunt, one of the most exciting college baseball seasons in history was taking place, taking more viewers away from the majors.
The MLB rules change is for the better for the league. Not only will it help guide viewers to the games, but more importantly, it will keep viewers' eyes on the games, increase scoring, and help up other offensive statistics such as home runs as well. The flashy plays, nuclear home runs, ridiculous stats, and tight MVP races help keep fans involved, and therefore helps keep the league afloat.
This decision will certainly help the popularity of the MLB in the future for years to come and will allow this league to catch up with the NFL and NBA as the most popular professional sports leagues both nationally and internationally.