Banning the shift is a fun buzzword for casual MLB fans who are turned off by predictability to live by — but hey, not so fast. Not every Yankees slugger will automatically be helped by fielders being placed back in their standard position.
If you believe the numbers … even Joey Gallo himself, the No. 1 complainer, might be better off with the shift than without it. He sported a higher wOBA last year in shifted plate appearances than in non-shifted appearances.
Of course … he was shifted in 576 of his 606 plate appearances, so it’s difficult to discern anything from the tiniest possible sample size. Still, though … tiny numbers don’t lie.
Fans of a certain age have seen their perspectives shift entirely. A hard ground ball up the middle universally used to be a single. Now? There’s a solid chance the camera on a broadcast will cut to a mysterious man positioned exactly where he needs to be, subverting our expectations every single time. Losing the shift will certainly create unpredictability in a game that’s become far too one-note lately, and might lessen the prevalence of the “three true outcomes” in a game where most hitters have become obsessed with drilling over the shift instead of hitting around it.
All this being said, though … did any of you really want to see Joey Gallo bunting more? Are there really that many worlds where everyone moving up one additional base was preferable to the chances of a long-gone bomb?
The following Yankees, in relatively moderate sample sizes, created more impressive (and powerful) numbers in 2021 when they were being shifted on than when they weren’t. Is that because shifts breed homers once singles are cut off? Is it just the luck of the draw?
We’re not saying … we’re just saying that eliminating the shift entirely isn’t as slam-dunk as you might think.
3 Yankees who’ll be hurt by MLB banning the shift
3. Giancarlo Stanton
In the vast majority of his 2021 plate appearances, Giancarlo Stanton was not shifted on — likely because he torches the ball in all directions, and backing up the second baseman into the outfield didn’t exactly save his life from Stantonian liners.
Still, lo and behold, with the shift in place, Stanton performed spectacularly well — and, without it, the wOBA dipped.
In 87 plate appearances with the shift on, Stanton scalded the ball for a .483 wOBA, the highest mark on the Yankees in any context. Nobody registered a higher weighted on-base average either into or out of the shift. Stanton Being Shifted On was the Yankees’ best offensive player in 2021.
With the infield in a standard alignment? Obviously, Stanton piled up far more plate appearances in this context, and still posted a highly effective .352 wOBA.
Quite simply, Stanton is an extremely effective offensive player, and blitzed the ball in any and all contexts last season. Losing those ~90 plate appearances where the infielders are all over the map, though, could cost him dearly (and unexpectedly).