As we noted in the offseason, the independent Atlantic League has partnered up with Major League Baseball to be a lab in which new rules changes are tested out. And by “partnered up” I mean “they’ve been paid some money in order to screw with their product” because Major League Baseball does not care about what happens in the Atlantic League.
One of the rules changes the Atlantic League has agreed to implement is a ban on defensive shifts. The rule it has adopted requires there to be two infielders on either side of second base for each play. Seems straightforward enough, yes? Well, you’d think so. But as Devan Fink of Fangraphs shows in his latest article, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Fink reports that the shift rule got its first test last week. He has some GIFs of the play in question. James Loney of all people was batting for the Sugar Land Skeeters. He grounded out to second base and was presumably thrown out, but the umps gathered and ended up calling him safe, saying that the second baseman was illegally shifted.