The 2023 MLB season is right around the corner! The Milwaukee Brewers' pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than two weeks, so it is time to start preparing for the season ahead.
The upcoming MLB season will feature a few rule changes, including pitch timers, bigger bases, and defensive shift changes. This article is going to dive deep into how the MLB will limit defensive shifts, and what impact it will have on a number of Brewers hitters.
What type of rule change will the Brewers see with defensive shifts in 2023?
Starting in 2023, defenses are required to have at least four players on the infield, with a minimum of two players on each side of second base. While this doesn't ban the shift entirely, it severely limits how a team can position their defense.
Teams will still be able to move outfielders onto the infield to form a five-man infield, or rearrange the positioning of their outfielders however they see fit. This rule does, however, effectively ban the four-man outfield.
For example, teams can no longer take their third baseman and position him in shallow right field when a left-handed batter with an extreme pull tendency comes to the plate. This rule was tested in the minor leagues last season, and it is intriguing to see what impact it will bring to the game at the Major League level.
I will be using Baseball Savant's Statcast data to study how this rule change may impact Brewers batters next season. One way we can analyze the impact a defensive shift has on a batter is by looking at wOBA splits when a defensive shift is applied, and when it is not. Weighted On-base Average, or wOBA, is a version of on-base percentage that accounts for not just whether a player reached base, but how the player reached base.
So, what impact will this rule have on Brewers hitters in 2023? Here are a few hitters that may see a bump in offensive performance this season.