Jul 14, 2022 - Sports

Baseball begins "pie-slice rule" experiment to limit shifts

A defensive shift
The Los Angeles Dodgers use a defensive shift during a game with the Houston Astros. The "pie-slice rule" would limit this. Photo: Michael Starghill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Minor leaguers with a knack for hitting the ball up the middle rejoice: A radical new rule is coming to further limit defensive shifts.

Driving the news: Beginning July 22, the Low-A Florida State League will experiment with the "pie-slice rule," which will prohibit defenders from occupying a specific patch of dirt behind second base.

How it works: Two chalk lines will be drawn on the infield behind second base, extending from each edge of the bag to the outfield grass. The ensuing triangular patch of dirt will be off-limits until the pitch is delivered.

  • The idea is to increase hits up the middle — one of the many results that have dwindled in the era of extreme defensive shifts.
  • Other sports already have similar rules, like the NFL's neutral zone infraction or the NBA's restricted area under the basket, where defenders can't take a charge.
  • If a defender violates the "pie slice rule," the hitting team can choose the outcome of the pitch, the outcome of the play or an automatic ball.

The backdrop: The minor leagues have tested other shift-limiting rules this season, and three other major experiments are in place: larger bases (to increase steal attempts and infield hits), pitch clocks (could come to MLB in 2023) and "robo-umps" (could come to MLB in 2024).

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