When did MLB start allowing the shift?

What Is the Shift?

The shift is a defensive switch in baseball where the fielders move away from their normal positions to counteract the tendencies of a batter. This means that the infielders will move to the side of the field that the batter usually hits the ball towards, while the outfielders will move further away from the plate. It is a strategy used to improve the defense’s chances of getting an out.

History of the Shift

The shift has been used in baseball since the early 1900s, with teams like the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics being some of the first to utilize it. It was originally used to defend against the “dead ball” era, where batters typically hit the ball on the ground and into the infield. By moving the infielders to the side of the field that the batter typically hit the ball towards, teams were able to increase their chances of making a double play or getting an out.

MLB Allowed the Shift in the 1970s

In the 1970s, Major League Baseball (MLB) officially allowed teams to start using the shift against batters. This allowed teams to further customize their defensive strategies and gain an edge over their opponents. It also meant that teams had to start studying the tendencies of batters and making adjustments based on their hitting patterns.

The Shift Becomes Popular

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the shift became more popular as teams began to use it more often. This was largely due to the increased analytics and data that teams had access to. Teams were now able to study the tendencies of individual batters and tailor their defensive strategies accordingly.

Shift Criticisms

The shift has been criticized for making baseball less exciting for fans. It makes for duller games as batters are often left with no alternatives but to hit the ball the opposite way or bunt it down the first or third base line. This has led to MLB instituting rules that limit the number of defensive players that can be positioned in the shift in certain situations.

Shift Evolution

The shift has also evolved over time as teams have become more creative with their defensive strategies. For example, teams will often employ a “four-man outfield” in order to defend against a power hitter. This involves having four outfielders positioned around the outfield in order to reduce the amount of space available for the batter to hit the ball.

Shift Advantages

The shift has a number of advantages for teams that employ it correctly. It can help teams save runs, as it can reduce the number of base hits that a team allows. It can also help teams get an out in a situation where they would otherwise have none.

Shift Disadvantages

The shift also has some disadvantages for teams that employ it. It can reduce the number of infield hits that a team gets, as the infielders are not positioned in their natural positions. It can also lead to more strikeouts and fly outs as batters are left with fewer options for hitting the ball.

Shift in the Modern Era

The shift is now a common part of the modern game, as teams have access to more data and analytics than ever before. Teams are increasingly utilizing the shift to gain an edge over their opponents, while also trying to stay within the rules set forth by MLB.


The shift has been a part of baseball for over a century, with MLB officially allowing teams to start employing it in the 1970s. It has become more popular over the years as teams have become more creative with their defensive strategies. The shift has its advantages and disadvantages, but it is now an integral part of the modern game.