With the 2023 season underway, most of the attention online has been towards the rule changes.
And while right now the obsession is the pitch clock, and some love for the bigger bases, the most impactful rule change is still the loss of infield shifts.
But exactly how much is the league average going to shift this year?
According to a baseball savant search of pulled grounder or line drives in a shifted infield, there was a potential of 1,133 lost hits due to the shift, which if all were to sneak through for hits would launch the league’s batting average from .243 to .250.
With that being so broad, a more precise estimate of the league’s shift is if we calculate the league-average BAbip to these changes, the new batting average would be .245.
While that may not seem like a significant change, here is what it would look like for the top 5 hitters who experienced this the most in 2022.
Even though the loss of the infield shift will mostly benefit the heavy pull hitters, it’s safe to assume that contact hitting for everyone may take a tick up.
So, let’s go off those additional hits discussed in my last video, which rose the league’s batting average 2.9% to .250, and see how it would impact the top contact hitters in the game.
So, if Jeff McNeil, Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Luis Arraez all had their 2022 season in the projected 2023 league average, here is how their batting averages would rise.
While this may seem slight, it would allow Freeman to surpass 200 hits, which would be the first time since Rafael Devers and Whit Merrifield in 2019, and it would give McNeil the highest batting average of any player with over 550 plate appearances since Mookie Betts in 2018.
But, projections aside, the lack of the shift is going to raise the importance of a hitter like these, alongside their defensive abilities.
Even with a potential bump of over 1,100 hits without the shift, it’s likely that the growing importance of contact hitters will bring the league’s homerun rate down a tick.
So, if we add those hits into the 2022 league split of hit types, obviously excluding home runs since these were all hits in play, the percentages would change to 65.1% singles, 20.1% doubles, 1.7% triples, and 13.1% home runs, which would be a 9.7% deflation.
In other words, if home runs were to fall nearly 10%, Aaron Judge’s 62-homer year would be 56 jacks, and Kyle Schwarber would have finished with 42 homers instead.
As a whole, teams would have combined for just 4,709 homers instead of 5,215, which would be less than a homer per game league-wide, which hasn’t happened since 2014.