Major League Baseball: Five pace of play change ideas

6 of 7

Fix the defensive shift 

I’m not against the defensive shift – I’m not completely for it either, but I do like some of what the shift does.  For far too long, some hitters have relied on just their pure power and natural ability to pull the ball.  The actual skill of hitting seems to be lost now.

With the defensive shift in place, those natural pull hitters are being exploited like never before. While some have, others like Ortiz haven’t changed their ways.  The Boston designated hitter – far considered one of the most dangerous hitters in the game – has now been exploited.  Now more than ever he needs to lift the ball out of the park or deep into the outfield.  No more soft line drives past the gap between first and second.

Unlike Ortiz, the Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo has decided to take what the defense has given him and used it to his advantage.  At first, Rizzo would hit into the shift, hoping to either hit it over their head or out of the park. But after a dismal 2013 campaign, the young All-Star made a change.

The young slugger worked on hitting the other way prior to last season.  He also worked on his bunting and slap-hitting.  The whole third base line was wide open – all that had to be done was to get the ball half way down the third base line and it was an easy single.  He did just that – and now defenses have to pick their spots on him and play him more honest.

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is a big supporter of the shift.  I’m sure the Cubs will be using it this year plenty. While I do think it is a good strategy; it does eliminate the chances of singles and getting runners on.  Major League Baseball wants there to be more action and the defensive shift does cut down on the amount of singles being hit.  Baseball could do something different from eliminating the shift completely.

Baseball writer Tom Verducci wrote an article for Sports Illustrated bringing up the idea of creating an “illegal defense” rule.  He came up with the idea of forcing teams to keep two infielders on the first base side might cause the effectiveness of the shift to decrease.  If the shift stops showing it’s worth, it won’t be used nearly as much – probably only in special circumstances.  I like the idea personally and I think it could work very well.

Next: How this affects the Cubs