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MLB News: League to Test Banning the Shift at the Minor League Level

MLB trying out some crazy rule changes, including an electronic strikezone.



Love them or hate them, MLB will continue to test out rule changes in 2021. Last year we saw a bunch of them at the big-league level thanks to the coronavirus pandemic limiting the season. Changes such as the universal DH and new extra innings rule were meant to help teams get through the season unharmed.

But this year, the minor leagues will be making a return after the year off, meaning that rule changes will be tested out there. MLB announced today that they will try out a number of new rules aimed at making the game faster and more efficient. Each of these rules were approved by the Competition Committee and the Playing Rules Committee. 

Larger Bases at Triple-A

MLB is hopeful that increasing the size of the bases from 15 inches square to 18 will reduce injury. That hope is that the larger are to share the bag between defenders and runners will reduce collisions and could also help offensively, albeit slightly. 

MLB Banning the Shift at Double-A

MLB is technically calling this one “defensive positioning limitations”, but we all know what that means. The discussion to ban the shift has been debated over the last few years, and this might be the first step. Each team is required to have 4 infielders at all times, and they cannot have their feet in the outfield grass per the new rule. 

MLB Step Off Rule Change to High-A

Another interesting change coming to High-A is the step-off rule for pitchers attempting to pickoff. Rather than the quick pickoff attempt, pitchers are required to disengage with the rubber before throwing over. MLB did the same things in the Atlantic League in 2019 which resulted in a whole lot more stolen bases. 

Pickoff Limits and Electronic Strikezone

This is also a big one. Not so much the pickoff limit, which only allows a pitcher to throw over to a base 2 times per plate appearance. The penalty for exceeding that would be a balk, according to the league. More importantly, they will once against test out the automated ball-strike system in the Southeast region of Low-A.  

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. This is stupid. Just like the 3 hitter rule for pitchers. If a team wants to shift defensive players, let them. It’s up to the offensive batter to adjust and either hit to the opposite field or find an opening within the shift. It comes down to batter patience and discipline.

    • I totally agree. I don’t like the shift, but there shouldn’t be a rule against it. What are we going to do paint little circles for each defensive player and tell them you have to stand here. Hitters can see the shift. If they want to, or can only pull the ball right into the shift, like Bryce Harper, that’s their problem.
      If hitters are capable of going the other way, half the field is basically given to them to do it. The shift shouldn’t be broken by rules. It should be broken by hitters who can actually hit. .

      • I tend to agree with Dodger106w the problem is it’s been several years now and we’ve seen very little evidence that hitters are willing to adjust to it. That means they can’t or they won’t. I suspect it’s the latter because the Anallytics departments of the teams see no value in it. I believe it is true because none of them care about batting averages anymore. They only care about the ball going over the fence. It will be interesting to see how that works at AA.

  2. What is a shift anyway? Positioning your players to get more outs? Why should a shortstop be allowed to play right in the middle of second and third base? And sometimes when he thinks the batter might bunt hd moves way in on the grass! Inconceivable! He can’t get that far out of position! And since it’s the shortstops job to get groundballs the first baseman shouldn’t be allowed to, his job is to catch the throw. He should move out of the way and let the ss run over and get it. And it’s not fair to spread out your outfielders, hows a guy supposed to ge a hit!
    Just like in football, they have positions and they can’t lineup illegally. Stay in your lane and we’ll all be fine!

  3. I like it. It could help reduce the all or nothing approach that’s ruining the game. How many perfectly timed hits have been lost because a guy was right up the middle? It discourages contact hitting and high average hitting. You may see a lot more .280-.290 hitters again. A guy like Bellinger would benefit from this, maybe he won’t feel like he has to hit one over the wall every time, he can be more consistent of a hitter year in and year out

  4. I suspect it is the analytics too. And how those analytics ultimately impact player contract values resulting from higher power numbers. Back in 2018, I was impressed with how well the Red Sox hitters put the ball in play, even with two outs. It resulted in the ultimate prize. I see a similar approach with the Dodgers. No easy outs, always trying to get the next batter to the plate. It takes discipline and patience, something more of those in baseball could use.

    • any move away from batters trying to hit a HR or SO is to be applauded. But have the hitters get rid of the shift by learning how to hit to opposite field. Ol timers just laugh at how baseball is played today.

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