The MLB has changed significantly over the past decade, especially regarding the use of analytics and defensive formations. The New York Yankees have been at the forefront of those shifts, but some of their own players simply don’t agree with the rules and how they’ve been stretched to put offensive players in more challenging positions.
Joey Gallo told The Athletic that the shift must be fixed, as it limits offensive players significantly:
“I get the defensive strategies. I do. I am 100 percent not against that… But I think at some point, you have to fix the game a little bit… I don’t understand how I’m supposed to hit a double or triple when I have six guys standing in the outfield.”
As recorded by the Bill James Handbook, shifts have seen a monstrous increase from 2013 to the present day. Eight years ago, only 6,882 balls were hit into the shift, but over 59,000 were played in 2021.
This has tantalized players like Gallo, decreasing his batting average significantly. In total last season, he recorded a .199 batting average, hitting just 13 doubles compared to 24 back in 2018. His singles improved drastically to 47, but his ability to curate extra-base hits has quickly deteriorated.
Whether this is a problem MLB needs to address is yet to be seen, but putting in place defensive formations isn’t far enough outside the rules to force a change. It is far different from the use of spider tack for pitchers, giving them an advantage with better grip and spin rate. This is simply putting bodies on the field in a legitimate way to prevent offensive production. Theoretically, you are allowed to use your outfielders and infielders in any way you choose, depending on the batter, which is a direct link to advanced analytics.
Another player who might agree with Gallo is Goose Gossage, who completely torched general manager Brian Cashman for his assertion of analytics over the past decade.