There’s a big change coming to Major League Baseball in 2023, and it could have a big impact on the Dodgers in a couple ways. Up until now, the only real rule about defensive positioning was that every defensive player except the catcher had to start each play in fair territory. Beginning this year, though, it’s required to have two infielders on each side of second base and in front of the outfield grass when the play begins.
What this does is effectively eliminate the shift, or at least what some people call the “full shift” or the “overshift.” Instead of positioning your third baseman in shallow right field with a left-handed hitter up, the third baseman will have to play something more closely resembling a traditional third base position.
This weekend at FanFest, Los Angeles first baseman Freddie Freeman talked with the SportsNetLA crew about a variety of topics, and the shift ban came up. Freeman is excited because he’s always excited about everything, but he ended up talking a lot more about what it means for him on defense as a first baseman than on offense as a left-handed hitter.
“I think it’s gonna affect a lot of hitters, left-handed hitters. Especially when you hit a line drive into right field and you’re out, that is frustrating. It really is. But you know, I think it’ll help guys.
“I think it’s really the defensive side, now the shortstop can’t be over there. So now your second baseman’s gotta be able to cover more ground. … I’m gonna have to go for more balls in the hole. It’s a lot more that’s gonna go into it on the defensive side for me, because before, it’s like, three steps to my right with a left-handed hitter, I could just let it go and Gavin [Lux] or Max [Muncy] or someone would just get it behind. Now I gotta like instill back into me, I gotta get going over to the right side.
“So obviously, the hits are gonna be there, you’re not gonna roll into a shortstop up the middle now, but I think the defensive side is gonna be a little bit different. So maybe the positioning, guys that are normally like, ‘Oh, we just put him at second base,’ you might not be able to get to second base now because he has to cover more ground. …
“Obviously, lefties are gonna benefit a lot. You know, Joey Gallo, I think he’s gonna get some more hits. Cody [Bellinger]’s gonna do better. Max. There’s a lot of guys that are gonna benefit, but I always think defense, like, you gotta take runs away in this game too. We’ll see. I think the defensive side from a lot of teams are gonna change a little bit.
“I think it’s gonna just be an adjustment maybe in two months, three months into the season we can talk about the shift again and how it benefits.”
If there’s one thing Freddie believes in, it’s thoughtful, thorough answers. He’s absolutely right that the most fascinating part of the shift ban will be on the defensive side. On the offensive side, a lot of the impact will be hitters getting different results for doing the same thing they’ve always done. Sure, there will be some minor approach changes here and there, but really the goal of the change was to reward people for what they’re already doing. But on defense, teams will have to make changes to their personnel, changes to their positioning, a lot of changes that will really be fun to watch.
With spring training starting up next week, it’s one of many storylines to keep an eye on.
More from Freddie on the Shift and FanFest
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