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MLB rule changes: What you need to know 




The rule changes for the 2023 season are an attempt by the MLB to increase the amount of offense, and speed of the game and create more action for the viewer. 


There are three different rule changes are being implemented for the 2023 season. All of these rules have been tested out in the minor leagues and are looking to add more action to the game. There is likely to be a learning curve to a couple of these new rules but with the month of spring training, the league should be quick to adjust. 

The first is the pitch clock. The introduction of the pitch clock is an attempt to increase the speed of the game. The pitch clock has two different time lengths depending on whether the pitcher is in the stretch. 

When the bases are empty the pitcher will have up to 15 seconds in between pitches. If there is a runner on the base paths that timer will be increased to 20 seconds. The batter must be in the batter’s box and ready for the pitcher with at least eight seconds left on the pitch clock. The pitcher needs to start their motion in order to avoid a violation of the pitch clock. If the pitcher is at fault for a violation the pitch count will receive an automatic ball and if the batter is at fault for a violation the pitch count will receive a strike. 

The pitcher is allowed to step off the mound twice per plate appearance without any penalty. Any step-off will reset the pitch clock. A step-off includes using the rosin bag or attempting a pick-off move. If the pitch attempts a third move off the mound player will be given the following base much like a balk. 

Each stadium has four new pitch clock timers. Two are placed behind home plate for the pitcher to see. The other two are placed in the outfield for the home plate umpire to see. The use of four clocks is so the pitcher or umpire can see no matter what side the batter hits from. The home plate umpire is in charge of keeping track of pitch clock violations. MLB is arming the home plate umpire with technology to assist him in keeping track of the pitch clock. A buzzer will be given to the umpire that will go off when the clock hits zero. They will also be given the ability to talk to the clock operator in the stadium using the same microphone used to announce replay calls. 

When the pitch clock was implemented in the minor leagues’ games reduced by 25 minutes. The pitch clock had no effect on the amount of offensive output.   

The second rule change is the banning of the over-shift. Baseball has seen a drastic increase in the use of the shift, over the past few seasons. The over-shift has teams overloading one side of the infield or using an infielder in the outfield to play the opposing side shallow outfield. This has impacted players who have a high tendency to pull the ball to one side of the diamond.  

The new rule change will only allow two infielders to play on either side of second base. All infielders will need to keep both feet on the dirt until the pitch is thrown. This prevents overloading one side of the diamond as well as having infielders play shallow outfield. 

The impact of this rule change will vary from player to player. Some hitters are not affected by this rule change at all as they use the entire field to hit. Other players that have an extreme tendency to pull the ball may have a significant increase in their batting average.  

The third rule change is new-sized bases. The home plate will stay the same but the other bases’ width will increase by three inches. The tip of home plate to first and third will still be 90 feet. The increase in size will put the second base 4.5 inches closer to the first and third. 

The benefit of the larger bases is twofold. One the MLB is hoping to see more aggressiveness on the base paths. Stealing bases have seen a decrease over the advanced analytics era of baseball. The three true outcomes of baseball (homerun, walk, strike out) have discouraged players from stealing. A shorter distance will give a little bit of an advantage to the speedier baserunners currently in the game. 

The full effects of these rule changes may not be known until the end of the season all the testing in the minor leagues shows an increase in action while decreasing dead time.


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