If you want to improve pace of play you don't want more offense in the game of baseball. More offense takes time by bringing more batters up to bat and it means more pitching changes. Someone should tell the new commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, of these basic facts.
Bud Selig, God knows, had his faults. So, I was hopeful when in the first time in forever we will have a new commissioner of the sport. Now I am pining for the old days of Selig after this most recent interview with him.
Ravech: If you had a broad brush, and the goal was to be as radical as you can be with regard to the way the game is played on the field, what would you do?
Manfred: Well, I think that … I would think about two sets of changes. The first is the set of changes we just talked about in, in terms of the pace of the game. And I would be aggressive about using the clock over the long haul. I think it's a helpful thing in terms of moving the game along. I think the second set of changes that I would look at is related. And that relates to injecting additional offense in the game. For example, things like eliminating shifts. I would be open to those sorts of ideas.
Ravech: Forward thinking, Sabermetric defensive shifts?
Manfred: That's what I'm talking about, yes.
Ravech: Let's eliminate that?
Ravech: So do you then draw lines by which your second baseman --
Manfred: Well, I think you need --
Ravech: … needs to stand or you can't go to the left side of the bag?
Manfred: I think it's the latter. You got to have somebody -- you know, you divide the number of players who have to be each side of second base.
He reiterates bringing a clock to the Major League level and he then proposes something new, banning the use of defensive shifts. For the uninitiated, radical defensive shifts most often occur when the bases are empty, a left handed hitter who almost always hits the ball to right is up to bat, and the shortstop moves over to the right hand side of second base with the second baseman moving into shallow right field. The third baseman then often moves over to the traditional shortstop position and leaves a giant defensive hole on the left hand side of the field. This is an easily defeated strategy if one really wants to try, just bunt the ball towards third base or do your best to hit the ball to the left side. Why left handed hitters don't consistently do this is somewhat beyond me, I guess they value a home run to right more than a single hit to the opposite field.
Either way, you shouldn't be punishing teams who study the opposition and are willing to employ a risky strategy with a ban. Baseball since the beginning of time has been about developing new strategies, adapting, and countering with still more new strategies. We just happen to be in a period of time when defense and pitching is dominant. We are already seeing teams adapt to more contact hitters and speed guys with fewer and fewer teams willing to invest in power hitting lugs. Let the evolution of the game continue, don't impose artificial constraints to "boost offense" when teams are in the process of trying to adapt.
Besides, defensive shifts are not the sole reason offense is down in the last few years. More aggressive pitching changes, less patient hitters (strikeouts are way up), and less steroid using hitters are also contributing factors.
Let's hope the new commissioner gets some sense knocked into him, preferably by a pull hitter hitting a ball to the opposite field.