Late last week, the long-expected new rules for the 2023 season were announced after passing a vote. The official ban of the defensive shift will make games look much different than they have in recent memory, while the pitch clock will hopefully fulfill it’s intended purpose of cutting away some of the dead times in games.
Let’s take a look at the Yankees who would be most impacted by these new rules.
He might not be a Yankee next year — although it’s a lot more likely now than it was in June after his run of back problems — but Anthony Rizzo could definitely see a bump in his average with the shift gone. According to Baseball Savant, Rizzo has been shifted against a whopping 83.8% of the time. He has the 13th-highest pull rate in MLB right now, and FanGraphs has him hitting .236 when shifted (discounting when he hits home runs in those situations and the defense is taken out of the situation entirely). If his back is healthy, he could see his average boosted next year.
Overall, though, the Yankees as currently constructed shouldn’t be terribly changed on offense by the lack of a shift, especially with Joey Gallo no longer on the squad. Aaron Judge has a high pull rate, but the shift is ineffective against him because he’s too good of a hitter overall.
The end of shifts might also do a bit to boost the cause of Aaron Hicks, but probably not enough. Baseball Savant has him being shifted against almost 92% of the time when batting left-handed, where he gets the majority of his plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his batting average with no shifts is a much more respectable .297. However, his wRC+ with no shifts is only 84 — better than the 60 mark he has against shifts, but still nowhere near the player the Yankees need him to be. His problems go beyond what the defense is doing in front of him.
The Yankees generally don’t have pitchers on the squad who are universally known to make the game drag on, but there are a few players who might need to learn to adjust with the clock behind them.
In particular, the back end of the bullpen might have to pick up the pace. The pitcher with the slowest tempo on the team with the bases empty is Jonathan Loáisiga, though he’s only a fraction ahead of Aroldis Chapman. Chapman, of course, is a free agent at the end the season. With his confidence apparently still in shambles, would you trust him to throw a strike after getting rattled with a clock violation?
Pitchers almost always slow down with runners on base, and the slowest Yankee in that situation is Frankie Montas. He has the eighth-worst tempo of all qualified pitchers in MLB, according to Baseball Savant, and everyone ahead of him is a relief pitcher. That’s certainly something to keep an eye on next season.
Despite his sometimes quirky leg kicks and twists, Nestor Cortes’ numbers don’t make it look like he’ll have a big issue with the clock. Savant has him as the pitcher with the 19th-best tempo among qualified pitchers with no runners on — it’s part of what makes him so fun to watch.