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MLB Rule Changes – Elimination of the Shift

Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia

The 2023 MLB season is set to kick off on March 30th, but this season will look a little different than in past years. Offense has been declining, and pitchers have been dominating, so the MLB decided to implement new rules to try and promote more offense. Today, we will focus on the shift being banned in the MLB.

What are the MLB Rule Changes in the Shift Rules?

In past seasons, it became more popular to load up your defense to play to the strength of the batter. For example, a lefty hitter that pulls the ball to the right side almost every time they make contact would frequently see three infielders on the right side of the field. This eliminated a bunch of hits that used to be where a gap in the defense was.

Now, it is required that teams have two players on each side of second base, and players cannot stand on the outfield grass. This change was implemented to allow these hard-hit balls that were hits in the past to be hits still today.

Which Players will Benefit from the Elimination of the Shift?

While pitchers may not be happy with these changes, there are a number of hitters who are ecstatic about these changes.

Matt Olson – Olson saw a shift in 81.3% of his at-bats last season, and teams would put a third defender on the right side in the outfield to prevent hard-hit balls from being hits. With the rule change, Olson should see an uptick in hits since you cannot have three defenders on the left side.
Jose Ramirez – Ramirez is a switch hitter, but when he batted lefty, he was no stranger to the shift. When batting lefty, Ramirez saw a shift 93.9% of the time. When he was not shifted in 2022, his wOBA was .429. With no shift, you can expect more Ramirez hits this season.
Aaron Hicks – Aaron Hicks started his career off strong, but he saw a massive decline once the shift was put on. Hicks saw a shift on 92.6% of his at-bats and has a wOBA of .297 when facing the shift. Hicks has a lot to work on, but he hits the ball hard, and now teams cannot protect against his pull-hitting.
Corey Seager – Seager saw a shift 92.8% of the time last season, and teams would have an extra defender on the right side in the outfield to slow him down. Now that teams cannot do that this season, Seager should have another big season.
Cody Bellinger – A former MVP, Bellinger has not been great since winning the award. However, he was a victim of the shift and saw shifts on 90.5% of his at-bats last season. Without the shift, Bellinger can certainly reestablish himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Kyle Schwarber – Schwarber defeated the shift by hitting long balls last year, but his home run rates are not sustainable. While he had a high wOBA with the shift due to the home run, the elimination of the shift could lead to more singles and doubles from the power hitter.

Best Bets For Shift Change

Corey Seager 0ver 146.5 hits (-115; DraftKings) Seager had 145 hits last year with the shift, so without the shift, I expect this number to go up. Seager plays almost every day, and he is in his prime. He is a candidate to have an amazing season with the shift, and this hit total seems low.

Jose Ramirez over 103.5 RBIs (-115; DraftKings) – Ramirez is one of the best players in the sport, and now he will not have the crutch of the shift. The rest of the Guardians get on base frequently, so I expect more base hits for RBIs for Ramirez without the shift.

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