Seattle won’t be the only team benefiting from a ban on shifts, but these Mariners players will
The MLB will be taking a big step backward in defensive shifts and essentially bans what we now know as a shift. Four infielders must be within the outer boundary of the infield, infielders can’t switch sides, and there must be two infielders on each side of second base.
So, how does this impact the Mariners offensively? On Baseball Savant, they do a really good job of tracking players who hit with a shift on or not and a player’s wOBA based on it.
Among Seattle Mariners, teams moved their infielders 96.2% of the time when Cal Raleigh hit left-handed. That was the 4th most frequent among MLB players. Even with the shift on, he hit for a .330 wOBA which is good. For context, Aaron Judge had a .458 wOBA in 2022, Shohei Ohtani had a .370 wOBA, and Julio Rodriguez had a .366 wOBA.
What is even greater is that without a shift in place, Cal posted a .419 wOBA. So, will we see even better numbers from the catcher in 2023? I mean infield shifts don’t play a role in home runs or balls in the alley, but it does make a difference in those hard groundballs into right field.
Jarred Kelenic should also greatly benefit from this new rule. With a shift, which was set 86.7% of the time for him, he posted a .226 wOBA. But without a shift, Kelenic posted a .316 wOBA.
Another player that should improve is Mitch Haniger (another reason why we should re-sign him). Mitch had to hit against the shift 71.1% of the time last season and posted a .260 wOBA. Without the shift, he posted a .465 wOBA which is quite a stark difference.
There are also two other players who had differences between a shift and no-shift set against them. Abraham Toro posted a .214 wOBA while having a shift against him 77.4% of the time. Without a shift, he had a .369 wOBA.
Sam Haggerty, as a left-handed hitter, had the shift on 42.1% of the time, and his wOBA was .137. Without one, he posted a .303 wOBA.
It’s also interesting to see how some players found more success when the shift was against them. Jesse Winker for example posted a .327 wOBA when the shift was against him 76.1% of the time. When hitting without a shift, he posted a .270 wOBA. J.P. Crawford also benefited when the shift was implemented. Crawford had a defensive shift against him 16.1% of the time and posted a .340 wOBA.
And of course, I am sure you’re asking about our star player Julio Rodriguez. But, Julio only had the shift against him 8.3% of the time and in those situations, he posted a .263 wOBA. Without one, which is basically most of his at-bats, his wOBA was .374.
The same goes for Dylan Moore and Ty France. They were largely unaffected by a defensive shift and most teams rarely shifted probably for this reason. Dylan hit against the shift 2.8% of the time while Ty France hit against the shift 2.1% of the time. Now, let’s stay on a similar topic and cover the defensive implications of the ban on shifts.