Blue Jays: Which Jays will benefit from the new shift rules?

Michael Fisher
St. Louis Cardinals v Toronto Blue Jays
St. Louis Cardinals v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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With MLB bringing in a slate of new rules for the 2023 season, a big change that fans will see is the restriction on defensive shifts.

If you felt like baseball reached peak defensive shifting last season, you wouldn't be wrong. Watching games, it sometimes felt like every ball was hit into a shifted infield defense.

That's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.

According to Statcast, shifts were used against 33.6% of all plate appearances in 2022. If that seems high, consider that only six seasons prior, in 2017, the shift frequency was 12.1%.

You can read our breakdown of the rule changes for a quick refresher.

What will the new shift rules look like?

Aside from infielders being closer to their traditional positions, the new rules will create more action on the field, with more baserunners and a more dynamic offensive environment.

Under the new rules, you won't see three defenders lined up on one side of the infield this season. Middle infielders will still play up the middle but can't cross second base before the pitch. And because they have to be within the boundaries of the dirt cut-out, there will no longer be infielders in shallow right field.

Teams will still do their best to maximize positioning within the rules and might get creative with their outfielders, but more balls will end up as hits, nonetheless.

A note about shift data

As covered in this piece for SportsEthos, statistics-gathering services collect information differently, so defensive shift data varies depending on the site you use. We'll be looking at two sources.

The first, Statcast shift data from Baseball Savant, is the most accurate for shift frequency data. The second is shift data from FanGraphs, which is helpful for specific data points for batted balls.

So, what do these new rules mean for Blue Jays hitters, and who will benefit most from the changes?