Defensive shifts were at an all-time high last season in baseball. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would like to do something about that.
On Wednesday, Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported that baseball's competition committee has given Manfred "strong backing" to limit defensive shifts. As Stark notes, any rule change would have to be approved by the players' union.
Defensive shifts primarily affect left-handed hitters, particularly those who hit for power. Last year, teams employed a shift against left-handers 29.6 percent of the time compared to just 8.9 percent against right-handers, according to BaseballSavant.
On the A's, only Matt Olson and Matt Joyce faced the shift on a regular basis. Olson ranked fifth in all of baseball with 350 at-bats against a shift according to FanGraphs, or 60.5 percent of his total at-bats. Joyce was shifted 73 percent of the time for a total of 130 at-bats against a shift.
Olson actually performed well against the shift, batting .300 on balls in play, not including home runs. That was eight points higher than his overall BABIP of .292. Olson benefited from his low ground ball rate of 36 percent, seven points below the league average.
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Joyce hit .246 against the shift, four points higher than his overall BABIP of .242.
Jed Lowrie faced the shift in 198 at-bats, or 28.1 percent of the time, batting .323 on balls in play. Khris Davis hit against a shift in 20.8 percent of his at-bats, recording a BABIP of .248.
Matt Chapman and Dustin Fowler also occasionally faced shifts, as did Stephen Piscotty, Marcus Semien, and Ramón Laureano to a lesser extent.
On defense, the A's themselves shifted 16.7 percent of the time, ranking 15th in baseball. The Astros shifted a staggering 37.3 percent of the time, far more than anyone else in the league. The Angels shifted the least at just 3.4 percent.
It remains to be seen if baseball will actually take action to limit defensive shifts, and if they do, it's still unclear what rules they would implement. Either way, it would likely affect other teams more than the A's.