Major League Baseball is seriously considering banning infield shifts that put more than two players on either side of second base as early as the 2019 season, according to a lengthy new report from The Athletic's Jayson Stark. While banning the shift would be the most significant change to MLB rules since the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973, the part of the proposed fix with which the Observer is most concerned is, of course, how it will affect the fortunes of the Rangers' slugging first baseman, Joey Gallo.
Throughout his three-plus seasons in the big leagues, the left-handed hitting Gallo has dealt with a variety of shifts, some more creative than others. While he's demonstrated tremendous power — fielders can't catch balls that are hit over their heads — Gallo has failed to hit for average, consistently batting at around a .210 clip. His low average, at least in part, comes thanks to a league-wide increase in shift use. It's easy to see in his spray chart.
With infielders in typical alignment, many more of the green and red dots in shallow right field would be singles and doubles, rather than hard hit outs. If Gallo were to add 20 or 25 more hits a season to his standard 40-plus home runs, he would go from being a valuable, but flawed, player to a star. The Las Vegas native knows it, too.
Shortly after Stark published his story, Gallo tweeted that he'd put an end to the shift high on his holiday wish list.
The responses from the crowd that believes Gallo should just bunt to third base every time he faces a shift came quickly.
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Nothing like a bunch of internet trolls telling a preternaturally talented professional athlete how to do his job.
According to Stark, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the league's competition committee both support doing something to limit or eliminate infield shifts. The next step in the process is seeking approval for whatever changes might be made from the Major League Baseball Players Association. If the union is amenable, Stark writes, major changes could be in place as early as opening day 2019.