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Business News/ Sports / Baseball’s Shift Ban May Help Send The Rangers To The Postseason
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Baseball’s Shift Ban May Help Send The Rangers To The Postseason


Texas shortstop Corey Seager has boosted his batting average since MLB implemented its new rule on defensive positioning.

Since Major League Baseball banned certain defensive shifts, Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager has been on a tear. PPremium
Since Major League Baseball banned certain defensive shifts, Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager has been on a tear. P

Many fans love the new rules that Major League Baseball implemented in 2023, but few have more reason to cheer one of them in particular than Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager.

The 29-year-old Seager is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the sport’s new rule on defensive positioning, which restricts defenses from positioning three or more infielders on the same side of second base. The new rule eliminates the defensive “shift" that was used successfully against Seager and other left-handed pull hitters in recent seasons.

With the shift banned, Seager’s batting average has skyrocketed to a career-high .332—currently highest in the American League—and comes a year after he batted .245 in his first season in Texas.

On the whole, Seager has put together a season that would make him the front-runner for the AL Most Valuable Player award, if not for Shohei Ohtani and his injury-shortened two-way season. Seager, along with fellow middle infielder Marcus Semien, has helped to pull the Rangers through a dogfight in the AL West this season.

Seager was hit by a pitch in Tuesday night’s loss against the Angels, though X-rays showed no fracture. His presence in the lineup is crucially important for the Rangers as they attempt to clinch a postseason spot this week.

The shift ban inherently involves a smaller set of players than baseball’s other rule changes, such as the pitch clock, which has speeded up games, or the use of bigger bases, which has sparked more steals.

Seager has emerged as the prime statistical outlier when it comes to left-handers and the restriction on infield positioning. His batting average on balls in play—how often a batted ball turns into a hit—has increased from .242 last season to .342 this season, the biggest increase amongst left-handers with 500 plate appearances this season.

Overall, Seager is hitting the ball harder and more consistently, but the difference in how he is being defended against is stark. In 2022, he had 656 plate appearances and was shifted on 633 of them, a rate of 96.5%. In 2023, he has been “shaded" on 65% of plate appearances. MLB defines a “shift" as an alignment in which “three or more infielders are on the same side of second base," and a “shade" as defenders “positioned outside of their typical responsible slices of the field."

The result is that, while Seager is hitting the ball better in general this season, he is reaping more rewards for the balls that he does put into play.

“The most interesting thing is that the outcomes he’s produced haven’t been reliant on the shift as much as I thought they would be," said Donnie Ecker, the bench coach and offensive coordinator for the Rangers.

Seager and left-handers in general have benefited from the rule change. Across MLB, left-handers are hitting .249 for average, a significant jump after lefties averaged .239 in 2022. The batting average on ground balls hit by a left-hander has also jumped to .239, the highest league rate since 2017.

After a year in which most of the emphasis around rule changes has centered on the pitch timer and the larger stolen bases, the long-anticipated shift ban has gotten less attention. Its impact is less evident than the other rule changes, seen clearly by time of game logs and incredible stolen base numbers for some players this season. Instead, the evidence of the shift ban exists in statistics broken down by left- or right-handedness and batted ball tendencies.

Seager’s former teammate with the Dodgers, Cody Bellinger, has also had a bounceback season with the Cubs. Bellinger’s success this season is likely the combination of health, mechanical tweaks, and a change of scenery, but he has also been able to put himself together in an environment that no longer specifically punishes left-handed pull hitters.

Not every lefty has benefited. Phillies first baseman Kyle Schwarber’s batting average remains below .200, though he makes up for it in hitting for power.

The spike in Seager’s batting average, Ecker said, is the strongest evidence of the shift’s effect on Seager’s season. He hardly lacked for power last season, hitting 33 home runs in 2022, but he has fortified his overall numbers by maintaining that home run power and nearly doubling the number of doubles he has hit. Seager can be an all-fields hitter, but his season “spray chart" shows that a significant portion of the balls that he hit for a single or a double would have likely been converted into outs if fielders had been allowed to shift on Seager as they had last year.

The shift ban wasn’t just about allowing a few more batted balls to fall for hits, however. Left-handed hitters entered the season excited about the prospect of recalibrating their plate approaches to allow for ground balls again or hitting it up the middle. It took nearly a decade for left-handers to overhaul their hitting styles in deference to the shift. It’s likely that the full restoration of the left-handed hitter will take multiple years as well. Seager has jumped out to lead the effort. The Rangers are following him in stride.

Write to Lindsey Adler at

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