MLB Defensive Shift Rules
The MLB is constantly adding and changing rules to improve the quality of the game for players and fans. One significant change came in 2023, a rule that ended the defensive shift to improve slugging and scoring. Keep reading to learn about the rules that ended the shift in MLB baseball.
MLB Defensive Shift Limit Rules
The defensive shift was a fielding tactic in which three infielders lined up on one side of the infield. This was in contrast to the standard alignment of the first and second basemen to the right of second base and the third baseman and shortstop to the left of it. Using statistical analysis of past hits, teams would use shifts to eliminate scoring opportunities for various players.
Two infielders must be on either side of second base when a pitch is released. Additionally, all four infielders must have both feet within the infield when the pitcher steps onto the rubber. This rule was adopted at the beginning of the 2023 MLB season and effectively banned the defensive shift.
Result of a Shift Rule Violation
If a team violates the shift rule, the batting team is awarded an automatic ball, and the play is re-done. The batting team also has the option to decline the penalty and accept the result of the play. This is a useful option if a batter gets on base while the infield is illegally shifted.
Reasons for Banning the Shift
The MLB banned the defensive shift to improve the quality of the game. The league tested the rule in the minor leagues first. According to their analysis, removing the shift from the game increased batting averages and decreased the number of strikeouts. The league also found that players had more opportunities to exhibit their athleticism, which should provide a more entertaining game for fans. This rule complements several other 2023 rule changes that are meant to increase scoring and speed up the pace of the game.
MLB Shift Restrictions Summary
- The MLB adopted a rule banning the defensive shift at the beginning of the 2023 season.
- Two infielders must be on either side of second base when the pitch is released.
- All four infielders must have both feet within the infield when the pitcher steps onto the rubber.
- A shift rule violation results in a ball awarded to the batting team and the play being re-done.
What are the rules ending the shift in the MLB?
The MLB now requires two infielders to be on either side of second base, which ends the use of the defensive shift. Additionally, all four infielders must have their feet completely within the infield before the pitcher steps onto the rubber.
Does the MLB shift ban affect outfielders?
The MLB shift ban does not affect outfielders, as it is only concerned with the positioning of the infielders. The outfielders may continue to position themselves anywhere in the outfield they like.
How will ending the shift affect baseball?
Ending the shift will increase batting averages and scoring while decreasing the number of strikes and strikeouts. Left-handed batters can especially expect their batting averages to improve, and most pitchers will see their statistics decline. Overall, scoring will increase, and batters will get more opportunities for highlight-reel moments.