America's National Newtime? Everything you need to know about MLB's latest rule changes in 2023.
From base knocks to balks to pitch clocks, the MLB prepares for a season like no other as Spring training approaches and America’s National Pastime returns like never seen before in 2023.
In response to the ongoing complaints regarding baseball’s dying popularity, many of which are addressed in my August article, the MLB head office and commissioner Rob Manfred concluded it was time for significant change. In 2023, several prominent rule changes will go into effect, including a pitch clock, limited pickoff attempts, and defensive shift restrictions.
With the primary goal of regaining lost viewership and increasing the popularity of baseball as a whole, the implementation of the pitch clock is a great first step. Pitchers will have just 15 seconds to deliver a pitch without runners on base, while they are given an additional 5 seconds with runners on base. Any instance in which the pitcher fails to meet this requirement will result in a ball.
On the other end of the pitch, the opposing hitter must step foot in the batter’s box with at least 8 seconds left on the pitch clock. Failure to do so will result in an automatic strike against the hitter.
Moreover, pitchers will now be limited to 2 pickoffs per hitter. If the pitcher exceeds this amount, he will be awarded a balk, and the runner will advance one base. This rule considers both pickoffs and steps off the rubber, so if a pitcher wants to step off the mound and use the rosin bag, he must be mindful of how many “delays” he has left.
Rule variations like these are steps in the right direction for the MLB, and, barring a negative reaction from the fans, we should expect to see more in the coming years.
In addition to the time-oriented changes, a new defensive shift requirement will go into effect this season. In an effort to improve hitting statistics and increase entertainment, defensive infielders will now be restricted to certain pre-pitch positions. Before the pitch is thrown, two infielders must be on the right of second base and two on the left, with all four infielders on the dirt.
Failure to follow these requirements will result in a ball, although the hitting team has the option to decline the penalty. If, on the play in question in which the defense does not abide by the shift rule, the hitter either gets a hit or a runner advances bases, a manager might decide to decline the defensive penalty.
The league batting average was .243 last season, the worst since 1968, and the MLB hopes its newest defensive restriction can fix that crooked number.
Finally, for player safety, the bases will be larger this year at 18 inches as opposed to 15 inches in years past.
The MLB has tested all of these new rules in the minor leagues and hopes to see similar success in the majors as it has in the minors. In the minor leagues, games have been reduced by an average of 25 minutes as a result of the new time oriented rules, and the MLB expects the same in the majors. Considering the average MLB game in 2022 lasted 3:04, just 6 minutes less than the all-time record in 2021 at 3:10, 25 minutes will pay dividends in the long run.
In the end, speeding up games is a great start, but if the MLB really wants to increase its popularity, it should let the starting pitchers go past the 7th inning in ballgames, cut down on commercials between every half inning, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, bring back the juiced baseballs!
Has any baseball fan ever complained about a homerun surplus?