MLB’s New Rules Have Baseball in Overdrive

In some ways, the shift was like a cheat code. The data showed where a batter would most likely hit a ball, so defenders stationed themselves accordingly. Without the shift, intuitive infielders with a passion for preparation have an edge.

“I like the spacing of how the defense is now; it’s just so pure,” said Seattle’s Kolten Wong, a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base. “You’ve got to really pay attention to pitch calling, hitter tendencies, what guys are trying to do in certain situations. It makes the game more intriguing.”

Wong, a left-handed hitter, has not seen a benefit on offense; he is batting under .200. Overall, though, left-handers are hitting 37 points higher on pulled ground balls and 28 points higher on pulled line drives. Future generations of lefties may never know the angst of their predecessors.

“It was a nightmare,” said Matt Joyce, a former outfielder who hit .242 in a 14-year career through 2021. “It drove me nuts. The argument for me was that, if it affected righties the same, OK. But you were just basically killing left-handed hitters, which was obviously not fair. They’re definitely getting rewarded for good contact now, because there’s a lot more holes.”

Joyce is now a television analyst for the Tampa Bay Rays, who have thrived on the bases. The Rays had 53 stolen bases through Monday, tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the most in M.L.B.

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