Major League Baseball is going to look a little different next season, and the Cleveland Guardians might be a big beneficiary.
The Joint Competition Committee has agreed to implement a pitch clock for the 2023 season, along with enlarging the bases from 15″ square to 18″ square with the aim of improving player safety (and maybe helping fast, aggressive-running teams like the Guardians in the process).
Perhaps more important for the Guardians is the elimination of the defensive shift. Starting next season, two infielders must be positioned on either side of second base, and all infielders must have their feet on the dirt when a pitcher is on the rubber.
How Will This Help the Guardians?
A banning of the defensive shift as we know it could help one particularly important player on this Guardians team: third baseman José Ramírez. This season alone, Ramírez has been shifted against 93% of the time, good for tenth in all of baseball. And in 2021, Ramírez had the third-most shifts against him, with teams shifting on him in 96% of his plate appearances.
So with that in mind, to eliminate the shift on one of the best hitters in the game, it’s certainly a tantalizing scenario for the 2023 Guardians offense.
And it also opens Cleveland up to potentially exploring some intriguing players in the offseason. For instance, outfielder Joey Gallo, who is a free agent at the end of this year, remains a player who is constantly shifted against – would eliminating it help turn him into more than a three-true-outcome type of hitter?
Here is one interesting caveat from the shift rule: If the infielders aren’t in the correct position when the pitch is thrown, the offense can choose an automatic ball or the result of the play. You just know there are going to be weird plays where an infielder accidentally has his feet on the grass when the pitch is thrown and it will cause absolute havoc, with managers storming out of dugouts, benches clearing – you know, the good stuff.
And on the flip side of all this, infield defense will become even more important moving forward. Good thing the Guardians have a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman in Andrés Giménez, who currently leads the AL at his position with 11 defensive runs saved and is second in the league with 11 Outs Above Average.