Are the days of the overshift coming to an end?
Coming off a season in which aggressive and creative defensive shifts were more pervasive than others, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been given “strong” backing to limit the practice, The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reported Wednesday.
Adding to the chances that some sort of shift rule could be in place “by Opening Day 2019” is that whereas many rules changes supported by the owners and commissioner often run into obstacles with the players union, that doesn’t appear to be an issue here. Hitters and pitchers alike seem to dislike shifts, as do traditional baseball fans.
“I think it’s a layup to get approved by the players,” a front-office source told Stark.
The shift has been part of baseball for more than a century, but it is among a variety of customs that have been taken to extremes within the past few years. This past postseason saw things like unconventional shifts, “bullpenning” and benching of regular everyday starters due to platooning splits being utilized like never before.
Whether all that strategizing is good or bad for the game is up for debate, but it sounds like managers and analytics offices might lose one of their favorite tools by the start of next season.