Will Extreme Defensive Shifting Be Eliminated? 0

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — With Major League Baseball doing away with extreme defensive shifting this season, the obvious question is whether all levels of college baseball will do away with it as well in the future.

The new Major League rule now forces the defending team to have two infielders on each side of second base, all in front of the outfield grass, when each pitch is delivered.

Typically when a major rule change takes place in pro baseball, it filters down into college baseball at some point.

One of the biggest tactical changes in college baseball took place during the 2019 season with the use of extreme shifting on defense.

While shifting has been used for many years in baseball to defense hitters with certain hitting tendencies, extreme shifting takes place when pull hitters come to the plate and defenses put most, if not all of the infielders, on the pull side of the field.

There have been three distinct extreme shifts being utilized which can be viewed in the three charts on page three.

With lefthanded pull hitters, defenses have had the shortstop in back and to the left of second base. The other three infielders are the right side of the infield with one infielder in short right field.

Another variation leaves the third baseman where he normally is and possibly a few steps to second base.

The shortstop moves to the right field side of second base deep on the dirt near the outfield grass.

The second baseman is positioned in short right field while the first baseman remains where he typically plays.

With righthanded pull hitters, the first baseman stays put. The second baseman moves to the leftfield side of second base, shortstop near the outfield grass on the infield dirt which he normally patrols and third baseman where he normally is positioned.

For years college programs have scouted opponents by online video or in person and used spray charts to track where hitters drive balls to position their defense properly. 

Synergy Sports Technology made it possible for college programs to track every pitch and hit ball in NCAA Div. I baseball. Each game has been broken down in detail so that important areas are tracked, including spray charts on batters.

That way, you can utilize extreme shifting with a high probability of having balls hit on that side of the field with certain hitters.

“In our program at Virginia for the past 20 years, we have been moving guys on our defense in the infield and outfield when batters show certain tendencies,” said University of Virginia Head Coach Brian O’Connor.

“It has only been the last five years that we have utilized extreme shifting on the infield where we have most of our infielders on one side of the infield or the other because of the accurate tendencies that we have access to from Synergy Sports.

“We have been pretty progressive with data such as this as we move defenders to spots with the highest probability of a batter hitting a ball in that area.

“There are a lot of times when we position our outfielders a certain way based on what scouting reports show. It gives us the highest percentage chance of where balls may be hit.”

O’Connor said that he loves college baseball the way it is played now and does not want to see the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee outlaw extreme shifting as Major League Baseball has.

“Our game is great the way it is now. The offensive production in college baseball has been really good since extreme shifting began on our level.”

To read more of this article, purchase the April 21, 2023 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.