Major League Baseball will have a different look for the 2023 season as the Competition Committee voted Friday to institute three significant rule changes. The group which includes, club representatives, players and an umpire voted to institute a pitch clock, ban the defensive shift and will use larger bases.
From the league’s release:
- Pitch Timer: A Pitch Timer will improve pace of play and reduce dead time. The Pitch Timer Regulations include the following provisions:
- A pitcher must begin his motion before the expiration of the timer. Pitchers will have up to 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty and up to 20 seconds between pitches with at least one runner on base. Testing in the Minor Leagues involved 14 seconds with the bases empty and 18 seconds (19 seconds in Triple-A) with at least one runner on base.
- A pitcher may disengage the rubber (timer resets) twice per plate appearance without penalty.
- Subsequent disengagements result in a balk, unless an out is recorded on a runner.
- The disengagement count resets if the runner advances; testing in the Minors had no reset until the following plate appearance.
- A hitter must be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds remaining. Testing in the Minor Leagues included nine seconds remaining.
- A hitter receives one timeout per plate appearance.
- Umpires will have authority to provide additional time if warranted by special circumstances (e.g., the catcher makes the last out of the inning and needs additional time to get into defensive position).
- Defensive Shift Restrictions: A set of restrictions will return the game to a more traditional aesthetic by governing defensive shifts, with the goals of encouraging more balls in play, giving players more opportunities to showcase their athleticism, and offsetting the growing trend of alignments that feature four outfielders:
- Lateral Positioning: Two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base when the pitch is released.
- Depth: All four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber.
- No Switching Sides: Infielders may not switch sides unless there is a substitution.
- KEY STAT: Defensive alignments that feature four players in the outfield increased nearly 6x across MLB since the start of the 2018 season.
- Bigger Bases: With the goal of improving player safety, the size of first, second, and third base will increase from the standard 15” square to 18” square.
- Bigger bases are expected to have a positive impact on player health and keeping Major Leaguers on the field.
- KEY STAT: Base-related injuries decreased by 13.5% in the Minor Leagues this season, including declines at every level of the Minors.
- Bigger bases will reduce the distance between first and second and between second and third base by 4.5”, thereby encouraging offensive Clubs to attempt to steal bases more frequently and generally to be more aggressive on the basepaths.
The voting wasn’t unanimous, but the commissioner’s office had a majority on the 11-person committee. The Players Association released the following statement in response to the announcement.
Rob Manfred released the following statement on the changes:
“These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans. Throughout the extensive testing of recent years, Minor League personnel and a wide range of fans – from the most loyal to casual observers – have recognized the collective impact of these changes in making the game even better and more enjoyable. We appreciate the participation of the representatives of the Major League Players and Umpires in this process.”
Statement on Competition Committee vote pic.twitter.com/8176xAwPZT— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) September 9, 2022
Given the discourse over the last few seasons, it isn’t surprising to see these changes being implemented. It is rather ironic that it is now the people that actually play the game, but those that simply oversee it that have the power to make these types of changes.
Things that haven’t been addressed include the absurd extra-inning rule, and a baseball that has continued to change and behave differently throughout each of the last several seasons. Not to mention the lengths the league has gone in trying to convince that changes to the ball haven’t been made.
Today’s rule changes may in fact be a good thing long term, but there are plenty of other areas that deserve attention. Perhaps with this