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The Boston Red Sox employing a defensive shift. Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

MLB will experiment with several rule changes in the minor leagues this season.

The rule changes ... No defensive shifts: In Double-A, all four infielders must have their cleats on the infield dirt when the pitch is thrown. That means no "rover" in shallow right field taking singles away from lefties.

  • Electronic strike zone: Select games in Low-A Southeast will use ABS (automated ball-strike system) to continue refining the optimal zone.
  • 15-second pitch clock: In Low-A West, pitchers will have just 15 seconds to deliver each offering.
  • Limiting pickoffs: Across Low-A, pitchers can step off the rubber only twice per at-bat.
  • Bigger bases: In Triple-A, bases will be three inches longer on all sides both as a safety measure and a way to increase infield hits and stolen bases.

The big picture: Each rule has its own merits, but none will be debated as vehemently as the one banning shifts.

  • Since teams began regularly used shifts a decade ago, the strategy has absolutely exploded — from 2,350 instances in 2011 to 46,758 (!!!) in 2019.
  • Advanced analytics can tell teams where a batter is likely to hit the ball against certain pitches. The increase in well-positioned defenders has led to fewer balls being put in play.

What they're saying: Supporters of the shift argue that hitters should have to adapt, rather than get bailed out by rule changes. That's a fair point, but doesn't necessarily put the best product on the field.

  • "The shift has to be cut down. Let me do me. Let me make the crazy play," says Mets SS Francisco Lindor, arguing that MLB should market elite defense, not well-placed infielders.
  • "I was a blind defender of the shift," tweeted Jomboy Media's James O'Brien. "Then we watched a ton of games from the 70s/80s/90s and the game was so much more fun with more action. That action with today's level of athleticism would be amazing."

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Ina Fried, author of Login
4 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO wants to compete against Apple

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger hasn't given up on the idea of the Mac once again using Intel chips, but he acknowledges it will probably be years before he gets that chance.

  • In the meantime, he is focused on powering Windows machines that give Apple CEO Tim Cook a run for his money.

Why it matters: In getting pushed out of the Mac, Intel not only lost a customer but picked up a new rival.