X
Lost password?

Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

X

Receive free daily analysis

NFL
NBA
NHL
NASCAR
CFB
MLB
MMA
PGA
ESPORTS
BETTING

Already have an account? Log In

X

Forgot Password


POPULAR FANTASY TOOLS

Expert Advice
Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Player Comparisons
Rookies & Call-Ups
24x7 News and Alerts

Fantasy Baseball Hitters That Could Benefit Most From the Shift Ban

Corey Seager - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Major League Baseball is making some big changes ahead of the 2023 season. One of the most significant is the banning of the shift. You can read more about that here, but here's a quick summary from that article:

"With all four infielders needing to be on the dirt, the days of the four-outfielder setup will be over. Even more pertinent, shifting an infielder to play short right field, or simply overshifting three infielders to the right side of the second-base bag, will no longer be legal."

As with all rules changes, we have to be sure to not get ahead of ourselves here. We can feel confident that this will make some difference in the fantasy season, but anybody who is telling you that they know exactly what kind of difference it will make is not to be trusted. We do have some data on this already, as baseball has been testing this out in the minors. Baseball America has a piece up about what differences some of the test rules had, you can read that here. What they found was only a slight difference, as BABIP went up less than five points overall.

And if you look at the data without knowing which levels had added shift restrictions, you wouldn’t be able to easily tell which levels adopted shift restrictions and which did not. Typically, these changes make a smaller difference in reality than people speculate about, so I want to say again that we should not be drastically changing our rankings based on these changes. That said, it certainly will affect certain types of hitters more than others, so that's what I'm here to explore.

 

Theoretical Talk

When approaching these things, I first like to just think about everything logically before doing anything else. We can derive a few truths just from rational thought:

  • This will impact left-handed hitters much more than right-handed hitters.
  • This will impact ground ball hitters at least a little bit more than fly ball hitters.

Left-handers were shifted 55% of the time overall, while right-handers were at just 19%. Here's a matrix of shift rates based on the handedness matchup:

RHP LHP
RHB 19% 20%
LHB 57% 45%

So, the matchups most affected in 2023 should be the right-handed pitcher against the left-handed batter. That makes logical sense as it's easier for a left-handed pitcher to stop a left-handed hitter from pulling the ball since they can get movement away from the batter. If we're getting into the weeds of "what pitchers will be affected," you would probably lean towards right-handed ground-ball pitchers being affected the most – but since the slight minority of hitters are left-handed and pitchers can just change their approaches in certain situations, I wouldn't even factor that into rankings or anything on the pitching side.

As evidence for the ground ball theory, I have put together a good old-fashioned matrix. Here you see league-wide, situational batting averages.

What you see here are the breakdowns of batter hand, shift, and batted ball type (ground balls, line drives, and fly balls). There is a lot here, but here are the key takeaways:

  • Right-handed batters lost six points of batting average when shifted on as compared to not being shifted on.
  • Left-handed batters lost 31 points of batting average when shifted on as compared to not being shifted on.
  • Line drives were affected very little, a line drive still went for a hit more than 62% of the time regardless of shift.
  • Righties benefited from the shift when hitting a fly ball, lefties suffered from it.
  • The shift took away significantly from the batting averages of all ground balls, but it really crushed lefties as they hit just .207 when hitting a ground ball while a shift was on (note that this isn't necessarily hitting the ground ball INTO the shift, it's looking at all ground balls while a shift was on).

So the numbers back up the theory, left-handed hitters are much more affected by this. More specifically, left-handed ground ball hitters are most affected as evidenced by the .207 batting average on shifted ground balls.

 

Which Hitters Benefit Most

Let me say it again, we have to be very careful not to go too far here. We cannot know what effect this will have until we see plenty of data on the matter. I would say it will be a couple of months into the 2023 season before we have any real feel for what's happening. We are going to be looking into which hitters got shifted on the most, and which left-handed batters hit the most ground balls while being shifted on, but it's not a sure thing that these guys will see their batting average come up.

Maybe they won't hit as many ground balls next year, or maybe teams will figure out a way to still shift on them (moving fielders after the pitcher's wind-up starts, stuff like that), there's just a lot we don't know. I'm not going to move any hitters up more than 5-10 spots in my rankings due to this stuff, but let's get into it.

What you will find below is a table of data that shows three things:

  • The number of ground balls each hitter hit when an infield shift was on. Note that these aren't necessarily ground balls that were hit into a shift, it's just overall ground balls (but it's fair to say that most would have been hit into the shift since defenses would only be shifting on hitters who pull the ball a lot).
  • The number of hits each hitter racked up on those ground balls.
  • The batting average for that situation (so Corey Seager hit just .137 when hitting a ground ball when an infield shift was on).

The big standouts here would be the guys near the top of the list that had very bad batting averages. These names seem to be primed to benefit MOST from the rule change, and I would feel pretty good about predicting a higher batting average for them next year:

A list of hitters that will benefit, but less so than the names above (because of a smaller GB% or a batting average last year that wasn't all that bad on those batted balls):

Here's a scatter plot showing all of the GB% and Shift% for hitters with 300 or more plate appearances in 2022. You can hover over each dot to see which hitter it represents.


From that data, I searched for hitters that:

  • Shifted on at or above 40% of the time
  • GB% at or above 45% (league average was 44%)

It's a pretty short list:

Player PA GB% Shift%
Max Kepler 445 46.6% 89.7%
Ji-Man Choi 416 46.6% 83.9%
Josh Naylor 494 49.5% 77.1%
Jared Walsh 450 46.3% 72.2%
Trent Grisham 523 46.1% 64.2%
Jackie Bradley Jr. 370 51.3% 63.8%
Juan Soto 658 47.4% 59.1%
Ronald Acuna Jr. 529 47.7% 58.4%
Tucker Barnhart 308 54.3% 57.8%
Oneil Cruz 360 49.5% 53.3%
Lars Nootbaar 346 46.0% 52.9%
Ian Happ 637 47.4% 50.1%
Jesus Sanchez 343 46.8% 49.9%
A.J. Pollock 527 45.3% 49.1%
Cristian Pache 260 58.0% 47.7%
Alek Thomas 411 57.7% 45.5%
Luis Rengifo 511 48.2% 44.6%
Josh Bell 643 50.5% 44.0%
Andres Gimenez 553 48.2% 42.5%

One last thing, let's take an example and make some educated guesses about how many points of batting average we could be talking about here. We will use our cover boy, Corey Seager.

In 2022, Seager had 145 hits in 593 at-bats for a .245 batting average. He hit 182 ground balls while an infield shift was on, and just 25 of them found a way to go for a hit. 25 divided by 182 gives us that .137 batting average we saw above.

For the sake of it, let's imagine that Seager once again gets 593 at-bats and hits the same number of total ground balls (199), but this time hits the league average batting average on his ground balls (.241). 24.1% of 199 is 48. So now, he gets 48 hits on ground balls instead of 29. That is an additional 19 hits, which would raise his batting average from that .245 the whole way to .277, a huge 32-point gain.

Now, please note that I took an extreme, extreme example here. Seager would almost surely hit higher than the .137 mark on ground-balls next year even if the shift was left in place. There is natural regression to the mean built into this equation. A more reasonable expectation would probably be something like 15-20 points in batting average for the players that are most affected by the rule change.

Still, that is a pretty significant difference and it does justify moving some of these hitters we see above up in the ranks a bit because of it. Not only does the batting average help your fantasy team, but hits also give more opportunities for runs, steals, and RBI.

 

Conclusion

I suppose I have already stated it, but in conclusion – there are certain hitters in the league that we should project for significantly higher batting averages next year because of the change in the rules. A higher projection, of course, is very far from a guarantee, plenty of other things can happen to make that not become the case. However, it is useful for fantasy players to know which hitters are most likely to benefit, and I think I have done that for you here today.

Thanks for reading, reach out to me on Twitter @JonPGH any time with questions!



Download Our Free News & Alerts Mobile App

Like what you see? Download our updated fantasy baseball app for iPhone and Android with 24x7 player news, injury alerts, sleepers, prospects & more. All free!






POPULAR FANTASY TOOLS

Expert Advice
Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Player Comparisons
Rookies & Call-Ups
24x7 News and Alerts

REAL-TIME FANTASY NEWS

Sean Murphy18 mins ago

Hasn't Resumed Swinging
Cristian Javier26 mins ago

Plays Catch Wednesday
Christian Yelich36 mins ago

Still Not Swinging
Dallas Cowboys1 hour ago

Cowboys Pick Up Micah Parsons' Fifth-Year Option
Ezekiel Elliott2 hours ago

Cowboys Meeting With Ezekiel Elliott
Cincinnati Bengals2 hours ago

Trey Hendrickson Requests A Trade From Bengals
Carlos Correa2 hours ago

Could Return Soon
Kevin Kiermaier2 hours ago

Placed On 10-Day Injured List
Framber Valdez2 hours ago

Expected To Start This Weekend
Nic Claxton3 hours ago

Nicolas Claxton The "No. 1 Priority" For Nets In Offseason
Cal Raleigh3 hours ago

To Miss Wednesday's Game
Grayson Allen3 hours ago

Not Ruled Out For Game 3
Nikola Jovic3 hours ago

Available For Game 2
Ryan Lomberg4 hours ago

Could Be Back For Game 3
Cam Talbot4 hours ago

Starts Game 2 For Kings
Logan Thompson4 hours ago

Heads Out For Another Win Wednesday
Jake Oettinger4 hours ago

Tries To Bounce Back Wednesday
Nolan Jones4 hours ago

Not Playing Wednesday
Jani Hakanpaa4 hours ago

Remains Out On Wednesday
Tyler Myers4 hours ago

Battling The Flu
Michael Toglia4 hours ago

Rockies Recall Hunter Goodman, Option Michael Toglia
Lane Thomas5 hours ago

Dealing With Grade 2 Knee Sprain
Addison Barger5 hours ago

Being Called Up By Blue Jays
Michael Penix Jr.5 hours ago

Could Be Among Top-Four Quarterbacks Selected
Gavin Williams5 hours ago

Shut Down For A Week
J.D. Martinez5 hours ago

Expected To Make Season Debut Friday
Lane Thomas5 hours ago

Nationals Put Lane Thomas On Injured List
Jared Goff5 hours ago

No New Deal “Imminent” For Jared Goff
Blake Snell5 hours ago

Strain Considered Moderate
Pete Crow-Armstrong6 hours ago

Called Up By Cubs
Cody Bellinger6 hours ago

Heads To Injured List With Rib Fracture
Heston Kjerstad6 hours ago

Sitting Against Left-Hander
Ryan Mountcastle6 hours ago

Back In Orioles Lineup
J.J. McCarthy7 hours ago

Broncos Interested In J.J. McCarthy
Rafael Devers7 hours ago

Officially Returning On Wednesday
Brayan Bello7 hours ago

Hits 15-Day Injured List
Detroit Lions7 hours ago

Penei Sewell Becomes Highest-Paid Offensive Lineman
Justin Fields7 hours ago

Steelers Not Expected To Pick Up Justin Fields' Fifth-Year Option
Rashod Bateman7 hours ago

Ravens Sign Rashod Bateman To Contract Extension
Ja'Marr Chase8 hours ago

Bengals Exercise Ja'Marr Chase's Fifth-Year Option
Amon-Ra St. Brown8 hours ago

Lions Agree To Four-Year Extension With Amon-Ra St. Brown
Nicolas Hague8 hours ago

Out For Vegas On Wednesday
James van Riemsdyk8 hours ago

To Make Series Debut Wednesday
Sam Bennett8 hours ago

To Miss Significant Time
William Nylander8 hours ago

Looking Unlikely For Game 3
Brett Pesce8 hours ago

Likely Out For Remainder Of First Round
Thatcher Demko8 hours ago

Listed As Week-To-Week
Ilya Sorokin8 hours ago

To Start Game 3
Cale Makar11 hours ago

Registers Two Assists In Game 2
Tom Wilson11 hours ago

Notches Two Points In Tuesday's Loss
Alexis Lafrenière11 hours ago

Alexis Lafreniere Collects Two Assists In Game 2 Victory
Filip Forsberg12 hours ago

Leads The Charge As Nashville Ties Series
Victor Hedman12 hours ago

Posts Two Assists In Game 2
Carter Verhaeghe12 hours ago

Hits Overtime Winner In Game 2
Sam Bennett12 hours ago

Sustains An Upper-Body Injury In Game 2
James Harden12 hours ago

Settles For 22 Points In Game 2
Luka Doncic12 hours ago

Leads All Scorers With 32 Points In Game 2
Damian Lillard12 hours ago

Scores 34 Points In Losing Effort
Tyrese Haliburton13 hours ago

Collects A Double-Double In Game 2 Win
Pascal Siakam13 hours ago

In Fantastic Form Once Again Versus Milwaukee
Devin Booker13 hours ago

Leads Suns With 20 Points In Game 2
Anthony Edwards13 hours ago

Struggles In Game 2
Daniel Gafford22 hours ago

Returns To Game 2
Karl-Anthony Towns23 hours ago

Has A Rough Night On Tuesday
Jaden McDaniels23 hours ago

Erupts In Game 2
Daniel Gafford23 hours ago

Questionable To Return To Game 2
Luke Kornet24 hours ago

Out Again For Game 2
Grayson Allen24 hours ago

Won't Return To Tuesday's Game
Kawhi Leonard1 day ago

Returns To Clippers Lineup
Grayson Allen1 day ago

Ready To Go Tuesday
Zion Williamson1 day ago

Confident Of Returning In Playoffs
Terry Rozier1 day ago

Ruled Out For Game 2
Giannis Antetokounmpo1 day ago

To Remain Out On Tuesday
Andrew Peeke1 day ago

Considered Week-To-Week
Brandon Aiyuk1 day ago

Trade Remains "Very Much In Play"
Denver Broncos1 day ago

Broncos Pick Up Fifth-Year Option On Patrick Surtain II
New England Patriots1 day ago

Patriots Haven't Received "Serious" Offers For No. 3 Pick
Kadarius Toney1 day ago

Still In Chiefs' Plans
Jake Browning1 day ago

Bengals Re-Sign Jake Browning
Brandon Aiyuk2 days ago

49ers Have Received Calls Regarding Brandon Aiyuk
Dak Prescott2 days ago

Not Trying To Be Highest-Paid Player
Zach Wilson2 days ago

Broncos Acquiring Zach Wilson From Jets
Matt Ryan2 days ago

Officially Retires From NFL
Cincinnati Bengals2 days ago

Sam Hubbard Recovering From Ankle Surgery
Tyler Reddick2 days ago

Survives At Talladega For First Win Of 2024
Brad Keselowski2 days ago

Finishes Second At Talladega After Last-Lap Wreck
Anthony Alfredo2 days ago

Gets Best Finish For Beard Motorsports Since 2022
Todd Gilliland2 days ago

One Of The Strongest At Talladega
NASCAR3 days ago

Bubba Wallace Finishes 36th At Talladega Superspeedway
Kyle Larson3 days ago

Fails To Deliver Value In DFS At Talladega
NASCAR3 days ago

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Finishes Fourth At Talladega
Noah Gragson3 days ago

Surprisingly The Most Consistent Driver At Talladega
Shane Van Gisbergen3 days ago

Shane van Gisbergen Acquits Himself Nicely In Drafting Debut
Michael McDowell3 days ago

Ends Talladega Wrecked From The Lead
Alex Bowman3 days ago

Quietly Captures Top-Five Finish At Talladega
Daniel Hemric3 days ago

Surges To Ninth-Place Result At Talladega
Harrison Burton3 days ago

Squeezes Into Top 10 At Talladega
NASCAR3 days ago

Bubba Wallace Will Start 14th For the GEICO 500
Tyler Reddick3 days ago

Avoid Rostering Tyler Reddick At Talladega?
John Hunter Nemechek3 days ago

Should DFS Players Roster John Hunter Nemechek At Talladega?
Joey Logano3 days ago

Expect Joey Logano To Compete For The Win At Talladega
Denny Hamlin3 days ago

Is Denny Hamlin Recommended For Talladega?
Justin Haley3 days ago

Is A Top DFS Value At Talladega
William Byron3 days ago

Is One Of The Top Favorites To Win Talladega
Christopher Bell3 days ago

Is Best Suited As A Tournament Play At Talladega
RANKINGS
C
1B
2B
3B
SS
OF
SP
RP

RANKINGS

QB
RB
WR
TE
K
DEF