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Report: Rob Manfred aims to limit defensive shifts

Major League Baseball could be headed toward a shift regarding defensive shifts if commissioner Rob Manfred gets his way.

Manfred, long a detractor of the increasingly popular defensive shifts, has "strong" support from MLB's competition committee to put some form of limit on the maneuvers, The Athletic's Jayson Stark reported Wednesday.

Shifts reportedly increased by 30 percent last season, and the Majors' overall batting average of .248 marked the lowest level in 46 years. Batters also produced a .318 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage. In 2017, the figures were .255/.324/.426.

Any change to the playing rules would need to be approved by the Major League Baseball Players Association, which currently holds no position on the issue, executive director Tony Clark said, according to ESPN.

An unnamed front office executive told Stark regarding a rule to limit shifts, "I think it's a layup to get approved by the players."

While shifts are far more common today, with analytics showing teams where they should place fielders to best defend against each hitter, the tactic goes back at least to the 1920s. Such notable batters as Ted Williams and Barry Bonds also were subjected to defensive shifts long before the current trend.