New MLB Commissioner Wants to End Defensive Shifts

When Rob Manfred was named commissioner, it was said that he was mostly a continuation of Bud Selig, with similar approaches to the game. Under Selig, the game was constantly in favor of big market teams, and it seemed like every time a small market team found an advantage, it was taken away. It looks like the more things change, the more they stay the same, as Manfred is following that path.

This week marks the end of Selig’s reign as MLB’s commissioner. You’d think that would be a good thing, but Manfred immediately shows that things will either stay bad or get worse. He recently commented to ESPN about the growing trend of defensive shifts, and said that he would be open to eliminating shifts.

Shifts have helped smart teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates gain an edge over the competition. Over the last few years, the Pirates have focused heavily on defensive shifts, catcher pitch framing, and either finding ground ball pitchers, or adjusting pitchers to throw more ground balls. That is a big reason why they’ve transformed guys like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, Mark Melancon, Vance Worley, and others from some of the worst statistical pitchers in the game, to having some of the best numbers in the game. And that process has allowed the Pirates to reach the playoffs in each of the last two years.

In the video linked above, Manfred offered the following comments in response to a question about how shifts might be killing the game.

“We have really smart people working in the game, and they’re going to figure out ways to get a competitive advantage,” Manfred said to ESPN. “I think it’s incumbent upon us in the commissioner’s office to look at the advantages that are produced, and say, ‘Is this what we want to happen?'”

If there is one thing MLB should not be doing, it is focusing on controlling how the game is played. It’s one thing to try and speed up the game with pitch clocks. But when you start to take away competitive advantages like defensive shifts, you start the game down a slippery slope. Where does it end?

What if a team decides to optimize its lineup by putting the best hitters at the top, rather than the middle of the order, so that the best hitters see more plate appearances during the season?

How about bunting? At one point in time, that wasn’t a part of the game. That was a long time ago, and baseball obviously is open to the process now. But how is that process for hitting any different than the process of shifts for fielding? The only difference here is that shifting is new, and hasn’t been a precise strategy for years. And if you want a fielding precedent, what about back in the time where fielders had to stand on the bag? Obviously baseball was fine moving away from that traditional method of fielding.

And how would MLB enforce shifting? Shifting isn’t always extreme. For the infielders, it could just mean putting the shortstop closer to the bag, rather than on the second base side. For outfielders, it could mean playing a player deep in center field. Shifting also includes moving the defense in to anticipate a bunt, or playing deep for double play depth. Teams have been doing that for years, and there’s never been an issue.

When Manfred talks about MLB questioning what they want to happen, it makes me wonder: what exactly does MLB want to happen?

On the surface, it seems that MLB wants to remove the advantages by the smart teams, and make things simple. To win, you just have to get the best players. The teams who can easily get the best players are teams in the biggest markets. Teams like the Pirates have turned to things like shifting because they can’t get the best players, and thus have to turn to the smartest strategies. When MLB says it doesn’t want the game being played this way, they are saying that they don’t want teams like the Pirates finding advantages.

Or there’s the player-specific approach to shifting. It used to be that you feared someone like David Ortiz or any big left-handed power hitter. Now you just play the second baseman in shallow right field, move the shortstop over to the second base side of the bag, move the third baseman to shortstop, pitch inside, and in the process, increase your chances of getting that player to ground out to the right side of the infield. Shifting has changed the game to the point where you take away an advantage that these dominant hitters once had.

These hitters have flaws, and there is an obvious way to attack those flaws and reduce the effects of their bat. So is MLB saying that they would rather have these hitters protected from teams attacking their flaws? Where does that end? Do we eliminate the LOOGY position and make it impossible for teams to bring in a lefty to face Pedro Alvarez in the late innings? Should teams be forced to pitch to Andrew McCutchen with first base open and runners in scoring position?

When Manfred was elected the new commissioner, I had a small amount of hope that he might bring a change, even though he was seen as the next Selig. In his first week, that hope was immediately destroyed. The best way to sum this up is by looking at a reaction by two General Managers, via Jeff Passan, to this news.

You know what casual baseball fans want? Yankees vs Red Sox. Big market teams winning. They don’t care about the Pirates, Rays, Athletics, or any other small market team. The only way baseball can cater to the casual fan is to rig the game in favor of those big market teams, while taking away any advantage small market teams have.

Analysis

  • Keep the shift. Dump the commish.

  • Heck, I always thought it would be a good idea to not play a catcher when the teams power hitters are up until there are 2 strikes lol.

  • The “casual fan” doesn’t want more Yankees-Red Sox. What they want is more highlights – and not just good baseball plays. More fights, overzealous celebrations on routine plays, signature home run dances, calling out opponents, more blood and injuries “too gruesome” to show on TV, although ESPN shows them anyway.

    That’s what casual fans want. If it’s good for the NFL and NBA, it should be good for MLB, right?

    Btw, this guy has been in office less than week and this is already stupider than anything Selig proposed.

  • A little cogitative dissonance on the Bud Selig rigged baseball to favor large market teams. Correlation between payroll and wins is a 0.27 in 2014, a number comparable to the collision era in the mid-80s. In 2005 the Yankees had payroll 3.94 standard deviations above the mean, the 2014 Dodger’s payroll was 2.76. When Selig became acting commissioner, 15% of MLB teams made the playoff, now a 1/3. II don’t know the genesis of this narrative and what I never got is why would an owner from Milwaukee be trying to rig the game in favor of New York and Boston (and LA now that the Dodgers have a huge payroll.) If Selig has spent his tenure trying to favor large market teams I think he has failed.

    I dislike Selig, collusion is a grievous offense and he is generally detestable (aren’t all league commissioners?). In addition, I dislike the many of the new restrictions on amateur player acquisition because giving teams different avenues for acquiring talent means there are different ways to win, I find sports leagues where everyone is trying to do the same thing boring. However, nothing was stopping large market teams from using the different avenues and methods that the Pirates, Rays, Indians, ect were using, they just choose not to.

    The game is less rigged against smaller revenue teams than it was in 1992, I don’t credit Selig for much if any of this, I think external factors played a predominately role. But at some point we have to acknowledge that it happen while Selig was commissioner.

    Don’t ban shifts, the strike zone is malleable, if it has gotten bigger without rule changes, just shift it back in the other direction.

  • Regardless of how competent Manfred will be or what his focus and goals are, way to be a typical old dude in a leadership position and come in and take a leak all over everything like a wolf and alienate people who know the game and follow it closely.

  • This new commissioner sucks and is a total and complete buffoon. I thought baseball could only get better without Selig, but Manfred seems ready to make it worse. Trying to appeal to the casual fan that will, regardless, watch tops 20 games a year is stupid and a great way to anger your dedicated fans and ruin the sport. The fact banning shifts and forces relievers to have to pitch to more than one batter is even being discussed is pathetic. Worry about evening the playing field between large and small market, worry about changing how home field advantage is decided for the World Series. Don’t worry about fixing what isn’t broken.

  • Andrew Gordon
    January 26, 2015 8:43 am

    The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy.

  • William Wallace
    January 26, 2015 8:40 am

    Correct me if I am wrong on this but Nutting was on the committee to vent candidates for Selig. He supported Manfred. The other viable option was Tom Werner who IMO was more attuned to small market teams although he is a part owner of the Red Sox and Jerry Reinsdorf was backing him. Manfred is a Selig clone but if Nutting didn’t know this he should of done something about it. He was a big supported of Manfred.

  • Stargell_Stars
    January 26, 2015 7:27 am

    Wow, eliminating the shift is an incredibly stupid idea! What’s next, Manfred?? Banning switch hitters? Eliminating pinch hitters? Late inning defensive substitutions? How about we make all the fields the same damned dimensions? Leave the game alone, Manfred, you tool!

  • Take a perfect game and make it imperfect for the AAAA teams by making it perfect for the big market teams. Sounds a lot like stealing from the poor to give to the rich don’t it.

  • This a stupid idea, Mr. Manfred.

    • Casiano Lopez
      January 26, 2015 1:02 am

      Mr. Manfred, ask the players and the owners about this incredible idea. Again, this is a stupid idea.

  • This is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard. This guy has lost all credibility before he has officially taken over.There’s no way you can tell a team how they can play defense. That would be like telling the Steelers they cannot play the 3-4 defense and they can only blitz on 3rd down. I’m against any kind of rule changes in baseball. I was against replay,I am against the new blocking the plate rule. This game will fall apart if these changes are made like eliminating defensive shifts and electronic umpiring with balls and strikes. Why try to change a perfect game? They are taking anything away that the small market teams can use to try to compete with an already unfair playing field. Slotting in the draft was the first step . How do small market teams have to build their teams in order to compete? Through the draft. So they make it harder . Teams like the Yankees don’t need any help. It’s ridiculous that they are trying to help the large market teams that blow millions of dollars and trade all their prospects away. They should be helping the small market teams to have more parity not making it harder on them to compete

  • If it hasn’t been done yet, I’d like to take this time to recommend that MLB finally implement the use of a tee. Pitcher’s have been pitching away from hitters’ wheelhouses for too long. This pitching style is a detriment to offense and steps will need to be taken to ensure that hitters are able to hit. The pitcher can remain on the rubber, we wouldn’t want them to shift.

  • Come on, this is awful. Make the hitters more dynamic. Don’t punish creative game management and strategy.

  • Basically what he wants is more offense.
    The best way to get it without using PED’s is ban all pitches except the fast ball.

  • Baseball is a thinking man’s game. If attracting casual fans means reducing strategy, then casual fans can f**k off.

    Baseball is flush with profits & record attendance, and this clown would diminish the game itself to attract a few more “casual fans”? They’d lose 10x more “real fans” in the process… I swear, the world is run by idiots.

  • Steven Anderson
    January 25, 2015 8:55 pm

    A pitch clock, then this? Whats next?

  • Well- I honestly don’t care one way or another. I don’t like shifts at all. When it was 2 or 3 dead pull hitters in the whole MLB i didn’t mind, but i don’t like watching the game as it is now. The funny thing is, the players can beat it themselves, all they have to do is become better all around baseball players. Let the players defeat it themselves, why protect the weak pull hitters whom can’t figure out how to use all fields effectively, why protect bad scouting that doesn’t account for it in high school or college, organizations which don’t develop hitters to use all fields. It doesn’t favor anyone to remove shifts, it hurts all teams equally. If you ask me, in our park, who cares if the opposition hits fly balls, homeruns don’t fly to left, and last time i checked, we have probably the best defensive outfield in the major leagues. Bring it on.

    • It doesn’t favor anyone to remove shifts, it hurts all teams equally.
      _____________________________________________________
      No, it hurts low revenue teams in 2 ways.

      1. It improves the performance of non-elite pitchers. If you’re good enough at shifting, you can get Clayton Kershaw performance at Vance Worley prices. If small-market teams can’t do that, they gotta pay more for better pitching (or figure out some other way of getting it.)

      2. It exploits the value of defense. Defensive players are paid less than sluggers right now– and probably always will be. If small-market teams can’t get extra performance outta their defensive players because they’re not allowed to shift, the teams will naturally want to get better hitters and therefore have to spend more.

      Those 2 things apply to all teams, but small-market ones are the ones that’ll be disproportionately affected by it.

  • What is the best way for fans like us to influence the Commissioner away from eliminating shifts?

  • Slope, slippery.

  • Wow, I’ll alter the original quote a bit…feel free to pass it on to the commish:

    “We have really wealthy teams in the game, and they’re going to buy a competitive advantage,” Manfred said to ESPN. “I think it’s incumbent upon us in the commissioner’s office to look at the advantages that are produced, and say, ‘Is this what we want to happen?’”

  • Ughhhhhh….I hate old, rich white guys so much…and I’m white and 42.

  • I think about football which has seen more innovations to how the game is played than any other sport. What if football had not allowed the forward pass, the west coast offense, 3-4 defense, 46 zone or tampa 2 defense, or a wildcat or spread offense…or blitzing for that matter? This is just ridiculous to me…ban something that allows you to play the game better…

  • I would love to see all the saber teams move their fences back 50-100 feet all around, if this happens. Since most of them win with defense and pitching, this one move could possibly have more of an effect one the game than eliminating the shift. Teams like the Pirates could then play 4 outfielders and basically eliminate a flyball falling for a hit and for the most part eliminate extra base hits.

    • I think the Allegheny river might prevent that from happening!!! 🙂

      • Just put Clemente wall along the walking path in front of the Allegheny, that should work.

        • Flood plain for the Allegheny river in that section extends up to the walking path area. Hate to see a heavy rain wipe out the stands.

    • I never understood the ‘casual fan’ only enjoying home runs and high-scoring games. Has this thought ever been proven? The only example I ever see was the higher interest during the McGwire/Sosa chase that, in my opinion, was because of the chase for a long standing record that many thought would never be broken.

      I DO cringe every time a team decides to move in their fences because it seems like there is a goal in effect to completely eliminate the real pitcher’s parks. (Or a greed to add in more seats and make $.)

      To me, and many others here I would assume, one of the most exciting plays in baseball is the ITPHR or triple. There is something that gives some people a chill about a hitter trying to stretch a double in to a triple and the anticipation that goes with the upcoming, usually 300 ft. throw from the outfield. Wouldn’t it be a good thing if you had larger parks that allow this type of play to become more common? This would also increase the ground that fielders have to cover, making more hits commonplace? Maybe?

      • How do you think the ratings for a hit-and-run derby would go?

        There’s your answer.

        • lonleylibertarian
          January 25, 2015 7:02 pm

          This may be the first thing you and I ever agreed on – chicks – and fans – dig the long ball!

          Manfred needs to enforce the strike zone – make pitchers throw strikes – that would get more offense…

          BTW-Best way for Pedro to beat the shift Is to hit the ball in the Allegheny – screw the “use the entire field” and try and strike out less and walk more…

      • I never understood the ‘casual fan’ only enjoying home runs and high-scoring games. Has this thought ever been proven?
        ____________________________________________________
        Not to my knowledge.

  • Let’s not reward intelligence. Maybe we should only allow sanctioned MLB sites on the internet. That Pirates Prospects site gives too much information to the fans!

  • The best way to beat the shift is the same way Ted Williams did when they tried it against him and ultimately failed. Find a way to get on base. Like say bunt to the base opposite of the shift. One can casually stroll to first base each and every time.

  • This will create many more problems than it would solve. Is the first baseman no longer allowed to hold runners? What about when third baseman creep in to prevent the bunt?

  • “New MLB Commissioner wants the Yankees and Red Sox back in the playoffs.”

  • Michael Walter
    January 25, 2015 2:32 pm

    Definitely a slippery slope. Requiring two infielders to be on either side of 2nd base is one thing, but what about outfielders? Do you go so far as to paint lines on the field of play to mark an outfielder’s legal territory? There doesn’t seem to be a way to accomplish this without drastically altering the game. As a serious fan, guys using steriods or other substances will not drive me away from the game. Game times averaging 3:10 instead of 2:50 will not drive me away from the game. But what would drive me away is a rule change so drastic that the game no longer looks or feels like baseball to me. Same reason i can’t watch Arena football – there is too much of a variation from the NFL and college game I grew up watching and loving that its just not “real football” to me. Hope the new commish backs off a bit.

  • I’m having trouble buying the underlying premise that the lack of offense is a problem in the game that’s in need of solving.

    • exactly. even if more runs per game would attract young fans or whatever, it’d further hurt the other “problem” of long games.

      more runs –> longer innings

      the national baseball writers wouldn’t know what to do with themselves!

      then again… maybe a higher run scoring environment would mean less extra inning games since the probability of a tie would go down if the average run scoring increased.. who knows.

      • Remember the late 90’s, jay? I promise nobody was complaining about long games.

        What people want to watch is action. A game could be four hours long and you’ll have folks glued to their seats if it is four hours of entertainment and not a bunch of long count walks, strikeouts, and meandering between pitches.

        • I have always been open minded about changes to the sports I watch but I hate the idea of “spoon feeding” the game to half-assed fans that don’t know the sport to get extra viewers. The sport is great, it has existed for 150 years…as a fan if you think it is slow and boring go do something else. That’s what the NFL does…. appeal to the LCD…and if you go out to a bar there are half-brained morons screaming at the screen like gorillas. This is one of the things I like about baseball. A 12 pitch AB and a guy fouling off 7 pitches is exciting to me and a representation of the game being played well. An 80 yard drive of 13 6-7 yard passes because the rules don’t allow a defensive back to blow up a WR anymore is my definition of boring…and that is the NFL model. I worry the NFl will be unwatchable in 5-10 years.

          • With you all the way on this one, freddy.

            The only thing that does worry me is the supposed lack of interest from younger generations. I’ll be watching this game til I croak, but only if the young pups keep playing!

            • With the rest of the world picking up baseball I think there will be plenty of young kids from all over the world to come play ball here. Asia, Latin America, Netherlands, Australia, even Eastern Europe. Hopefully there will always be enough that a third of the league is from America though. That is definitely up in the air 20-30 years down the road.

          • Well said, Freddy.

        • true. McGwire vs Sosa is what got me interested in the MLB when i was 8. i loved that stuff.

          i mostly just wanted to poke fun at the national writers.

          • What got me into baseball was playing little league, collecting cards…and great announcers like Bob Prince and Vin Skully and Phil Rizzuto.

        • Your source for these assertions?

    • A bureaucrat looking for a mission? The hardest thing for anyone in a position of power to do is stand still.

    • Exactly…that premise is an insult to any potential casual fan that could become a real fan’s intelligence…instead of taking the easy route by simplifying everything, why not launch a campaign to educate fans about the game’s history and why the pace of well-played game and lower scoring is just as beautiful as a long homerun. Now, a 4+ hour Boston and NY game until 12:03 am on a Sunday night with eternities between pitches…that needs to go.

  • “Shifts have helped smart teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates gain an edge over the competition”.
    IMO, this is the real issue, he is saying how far will smart teams push the envelope?
    We used to call shifting, positioning, because that is all it is, Clemente one of the best at it is turning over in his grave at the mere thought of this stupidity.
    What this guy needs to do is take a good look at the NFL and their rule changing ideas and see how they backfire on them, start with the tuck rule as an example, after that straight downhill, fans have to have the game constantly explained to them while they watch the game, do we want baseball to start adopting rules to counteract smart people?

  • Helping the big money teams is despicable in concept alone if it is his intent. What really sucks for me is the Pittsburgh franchise isn’t just a small market team it is one of the oldest franchises and one filled with great history, many HOF’ers and some of the most storied icons in the history of the game. Obviously, Selig or Manfred didn’t watch the Pirates on the road the last couple of years to notice the large group of Pirate fans in all the opponents stadiums whether NL or AL!

  • All Major League Baseball has to do is stop updating their PED testing program and the good ole American free market will solve this lack of offense offense issue in three or four years.

    You laugh, but these guys have turned the other way before, and it’s not like the NFL is losing any fans despite rampant PED use being blatantly obvious around the league.

    • I never understood why baseball is the only sport where PED’s are really cracked down on, yet it also takes the most grief about it. Could you imagine if they put the same program in place in football? It would turn into a field goal contest because everyone else would be suspended.

      • Because baseball is a non-contact / non-Olympic sport.

      • This is certainly only my opinion, John, but I believe Major League Baseball brings it upon themselves with all the sanctimonious garbage about purity and “playing the game the right way”. Post-steroid era policy has been nothing but trying to save face from the previous decade, which of course has not convinced anyone. The game of baseball – the game of anything with this much money at stake – will never be clean and pure. Never was, and never will be. MLB chooses to play games pretending otherwise and what you get is garbage like Alex Rodriguez getting more national coverage than Andrew McCutchen.

        • That could be it. I think the other sports just hid behind the baseball news and if they don’t act like it’s a problem, then it isn’t a problem. If the NFL actually wanted to crackdown, then they would, but they see no reason to do it because no one is calling for it. The problem with that is they have these 300 lb killing machines running around and concussions are running rampant in the sport, but apparently you can’t put two and two together to come up with part of the reason why it’s happening. They instead bury the real problem by making the equipment better.

          Some people also believe that MLB records mean something, while NFL records aren’t as well known, so that don’t matter as much, so who cares if they get broken. It’s not just the NFL, the other two major sports apparently have 99.9% clean players as well…

      • Scott Kliesen
        January 25, 2015 8:11 pm

        It’s all because of the sanctity of hallowed numbers like 61 and 755 being shattered.

    • …then Jose Canseco could make one more Lyle Alzado-style run at it and come back looking like AJ Watt with a bat and glove.

  • It’s good to see Buster Olney ripping this idea a new one on Twitter. Definitely worth checking it out.

    • Scott Kliesen
      January 25, 2015 8:09 pm

      His voice will be just one of a thousand from the talking heads this week lambasting his comments.

  • He might want to go to the original positioning of four outfielders and the three infielders stand on the bag. That was back in the 1840’s and baseball gained a lot of popularity back then. I can’t believe this is what the new commissioner said on the first day. He wants to put more offense in the game, which would lead to more pitching changes, while also speeding up the game. Talk about covering all your bases, baseball pun intended.

    • John, that totally conflicting comment perfectly illustrates the mindset of the top management of MLB. There is nothing else I can say to show my contempt for a clown like Manfred.

      • …and top management everywhere in most avenues of business. “We want the impossible. We have set you up to fail. Now go and try to accomplish it…even though you can’t.”

    • John: Probably a comment to which he did not give much thought. There have been shifts since the beginning in Baseball, and regardless of his approach, the shifts will still continue. The previous generations of fans never dreamed how the advanced statistics of baseball could be applied in a split second in an ongoing game, but that is the reality of our game in 2015.

      I remember the first Manager that I heard associated with “stepping into the future” was Tony LaRussa. Others such as NH and Clint Hurdle have advanced those principles into a method of trying to maximize a team’s chances for success, because that is what pays the bills – in attendance, in national recognition, in TV Revenues, etc., etc. And, if you want to see what that means, check out the Forbes Values of MLB Teams when they come out in March/April. Since the Pirates have become successful and broken that 20 year curse, the team value has increased from $300 mil in 2011 to over $570 mil in 2014. That value could increase to near $700 mil in 2015 due to the validation of making the playoffs a second straight year, assembling another Top 5 team going into 2015, and having the resources of MLB’s best minor league developmental system.

  • Here’s an idea that I think the new commissioner will love! You only get three infielders. They must remain on the base they are assigned to for the entire play. They may only.move at the end of the inning. That will boost offense!

  • Scott Kliesen
    January 25, 2015 1:09 pm

    Of all the issues baseball is faced with, the Commissioner chooses this one to address first?!!! I have an idea, Rob, why don’t you address the elephant in the room, DH or no DH!

    This is like the NBA having a rule where Western Conf teams having a 3 point shot, while East teams don’t. Or AFC teams having 4 downs to make 10 yards, while NFC teams do it the Canadian Football way.

    Hey Rob, name one other sport in the world where half the teams play under one set of rules and the other half another?

    I personally think baseball would be a better game if they compromised the DH rule on both sides and created what I call the Hybrid DH rule.

    Basically use the AL rule for the first 6 innings, and use NL rule for remainder of game. If team wants SP to stay in after 6th inning, he takes DH spot in lineup. And if team wants DH to stay in game after 6th he has to move into field a position.

    This will in effect give fans more offense prevalent in AL games, while also utilizing the strategic value found in late innings of NL games.

    Just one man’s opinion.

    • It’s not just the DH rule that is unique to baseball. Each baseball ballpark has it’s own set of ground rules and dimensions.

      It would be like Gillette Stadium having an 85 yard football field and CenturyLink Field having a 110 yard football field.

      I don’t have a problem with the DH rule as it currently stands any more than I have a problem with the different dimensions of various ballparks around the league.

      If offense is lacking in both the AL and NL, then changing the DH rule won’t boost offense across the board.

  • I don’t see it as a way to hurt the small market teams. The rich teams are catching on to shifting anyway.

    I dont get why a casual fan would care. If they would attend a 5-4 game, but not a 2-1 game, then they should probably not even go to the game in the first place. Shifting counts for what… a run every 10 games?

    To me it sounds like they’re trying to make the game old-timey for the sake of making it old timey.

    Less runs are scored because teams understand pitching a lot more as well. Ban the use of xFIP next! Hell. Just make it illegal to throw above 93! #MoarRuns

    • Yeah, this definitely isn’t meant to explicitly hurt small market teams. But a run no longer saved on defense is a run that needs to be made up on offense, and offense is still more expensive to acquire than defense.

      • I think this effects the price of pitchers more than anything. No longer can teams get cheap pitchers and shift away some of their flaws.

        • I think that is the point nmr is making.. small market teams can fill in the gap with gb pitchers and defensive analytics. . Big market teams can afford to buy the tor guys, therefore defensive efficiency isn’t as important or even implemented appropriately

      • if shifts are taken away, then that extra run on offense will happen organically as the opposing defenses are hurt just as much as your own defense.

        I just don’t see the point. An extra run saved every 10 games can be huge for a team if they think they are shifting more effectively than other teams. But is that extra run saved really gonna make the game that much more boring for the casual fan? My issue is more about his reasoning for potentially banning shifts than the actual banning of the shifts.

        • Only if shifting is equally successful for all teams, which it is not. Teams that are good at shifting, like the Pirates, will be hurt more than teams that are not.

          I’m certainly not arguing that this is an awful way to inject more offense in the game. See my post above. Just making a point that while this explicitly isn’t directed at small market clubs, they very well may be impacted more than large markets.

          • yeah good stuff in your previous post. the strike zone is the bigger issue for run scoring.

            i do also think that teams now better understand what makes pitchers good from year to year now as well. But the k zone is absolutely a factor.

            of course, once they bring in robot k zones, we’ll all probably get a little annoyed because that’ll take away the new pitch framing trend.

            The offensive effect will be twofold because 1) the strike zone will be fair for hitters and 2) catching could potentially have an influx of offense because receiving ability will become less important. Ryan Doumit isn’t a good hitter anymore, but he’s a guy i think about when i think about robot strike zones since he’s basically the poster child for poor framing. More Doumits, less Chris Stewarts means more runs. And more right strike and ball calls.

            • A robot strike zone is one of the few areas where I feel a change can be made that won’t tarnish the game so much. You can still have an umpire there to call the odd things like catcher’s interference and keep the count. This would also take the bias out of the old-timers like Joe West who likes to squeeze guys who question him. It would be pretty entertaining to watch Justin Upton stare at the ump when it’s a machine that is actually calling the balls and strikes.

          • …but every team has the ability to be good at it if they work at it, do the right research, and get the type of players and coaches to help execute it. Big market teams have often been slower to take to innovation because they can pile up top pitchers and hitters and have a much higher margin for error. Just lower the mound again and stop with banning the shift stuff….or make steroids legal. That will fix the offensive production issues. None of the rich teams cared about any of this stuff when poor teams were less competitive.

          • I think you may be giving the commissioner too much credit here. They changed the draft rules with small team ‘advantages’ in mind. I know this guy is not Selig and should not be lumped with him, but the MLB commissioner selection process was about as honest as a session in congress.

  • “When Manfred talks about MLB questioning what they want to happen, it makes me wonder: what exactly does MLB want to happen?”

    He explicitly states that MLB wants more offense, which, makes complete sense when trying to sell a product to the public.

    What doesn’t make sense is changing the rules of the game to get that result. If MLB had any balls, what so ever, they’d tackle to the real issue with the low run scoring environment: strike zone creep. Make umpires do their job or bring in electronic balls and strikes. Enforce the rules, make pitchers throw strikes, and the offense will take care of itself.

    • strike calls have been scrutinized via video and technology for several years now – every game, every pitch. The ball/strike calling is more accurate than ever, but the zone has gotten lower (to the knees) which favors pitchers and reduces the hitters power somewhat. The sort of zone creep you describe was far more prevalent in the past than it is now…

      • Yes, I thought some research was done pretty much determining that the ‘new’ strike zone being called that people are starting to complain about is simply that the umpires are now calling most of the entire zone. I believe there are still high strikes that are not called enough. I will try to look this up and see if I can find a source.

  • I can just see it now…..lines that a fielder can’t cross before the pitch. Just like a coaches box?

    Ya know, they used to shift against Ted Williams. He would’ve hit .450 without them.

    Mandrake the Magician needs a new act already.

  • I can’t even get my around what he is saying. How could you prevent teams from playing their players wherever they want? I try never to personally insult people in my comments but this guy sounds like an imperious imbecile. How do people like this get positions of authority?

    • Maybe he was still recovering from his “Gosh how I love my name on the MLB baseball” moment and wasn’t thinking straight? What an ‘imperious’ tweet of humblebrag.

    • I’m confused at how this would be implemented. Does it just mean you have to have two guys on each side of second base? Or does the ump just determine where you can stand? What would the penalty be for violating the rule?

    • ” Imperious imbecile ” ? What do you think his qualifications for the job were Chris ?

      • I don’t know anything about Mr. Manfred but if he fits the bill for the usual suspects of men who gain power in the US he would have a law degree, probably Ivy league or Stanford, and has agreed with everything that the person directly above him has said for many years until he got the keys to the kingdom.

  • If this guy makes changes like this, I envision that many die hard fans will become casual fans, myself included.

    • or not fans at all?

    • Or a much bigger fan of amateur baseball. I avoided asshats like this clown for the steroid era, and I can guarantee that if he/they start this crap, I will check out till I die.

  • And how would MLB enforce shifting?

    exactly!!!

    • Put a big X for the individual’s designated spot Lee. Do NOT laugh, that wouldn’t shock me at all.

    • Have fielder boxes painted on the field, similar to batters boxes

    • Yeah, while they are at it, ban shading a guy over a step too! …and ban catchers framing pitches.

  • Shifting isn’t new. Ted freaking Williams used to get the shift a lot. Maybe the degree to which it is used has changed, but its been part of baseball for a long long time. If he is worried about offense, there are other changes that can be made that don’t undermine the game. Lowering the mound has been done before to notable effect. Perhaps loosening bat restrictions could be a way to go. Banning shifts is a horrible idea, and radically changes baseball. It’s basically implementing “formation” rules, via the NFL, Its not market agnositc, and it could actually change baseball into a game comprised strictly of pull hitters. Is that the way we want baseball to go seriously?

    • Shifting against Ted Williams probably wasn’t very productive as say shifting against Big Papi and today’s power hitters. Mr. Williams was so good they probably tried everything to no avail, lol!

    • Ted beat the shift in the World Series one time. They had him played way back and to pull and he laid a bunt down to 3B for an easy single. I remember reading this several times.

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