Major League Baseball announced that a number of new rules will go into effect for the 2024 season after the league’s Competition Committee voted to enact them earlier today.
Among the changes are the widening of the runner’s lane between home plate and first base to allow for batters to take a more direct path to the base. Next season there will be between 18 and 24 inches from the foul line to the infield grass. MLB is allowing for a grace period due issues some teams may have modifying their field due to the use of synthetic turf. A chalked line will still be used to outline the runner’s lane, but a runner will be considered in compliance of the rule so long as both feet stay in the dirt basepath when running from home to first.
Another change will be a reduction of the time between pitches with runners on base. This time will be reduced to 18 seconds to 20 seconds. Pitchers will still be able to step off to reset the pitch click twice per batter at bat without a penalty. There is no change to the clock if no runners are on base.
Mound visits will be reduced from five per team per game to four although an extra mound visit will still be awarded to a defensive team in the ninth inning if the team does not have any visits remaining. Additionally, umpires will now allow defensive players to call for a mound visit without visiting the pitcher’s mound.
The inning break clock will reset to 2:00 when a new pitcher leaves the bullpen and steps onto the warning track with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. Previously the clock reset to 2:15.
If a pitcher warms up on the mound prior to the start of a new inning, that pitcher will be required to face at least one batter. This rule is in addition to any requirements that must be met for the three-batter minimum rule. According to MLB, there were 24 times this happened during the regular season; it also happened twice in the World Series.
After a dead ball, the pitch clock will now start once a pitcher has the ball and play is ready to resume, not when the pitcher has the ball as is on the mound. This change was made to prevent delays caused when a pitcher would be provided a ball but would wait to step on to the mound.
The Competition Committee is comprised of one umpire, four players and six owners. The players on the committee voted against all the of approved rule changes, based on a statement released by Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark after the announcement of the new rules.
In the release, Clark stated:
“This afternoon, Player Representatives voted against the 2024 rule changes proposed by the Commissioner’s Office. As they made clear in the Competition Committee, Players strongly feel that, following last season’s profound changes to the fundamental rules of the game, immediate additional changes are unnecessary and offer no meaningful benefits to fans, Players, or the competition on the field. This season should be used to gather additional data and fully examine the health, safety, and injury impacts of reduced recovery time; that is where our focus will be.”
The Chairman of the Competition Committee and Chairman of the Seattle Mariners, John Stanton, also released a prepared statement on the new rules, saying:
“From its inception, the joint Competition Committee’s constructive conversations between players, umpires and owners have produced rules that significantly improved the game for fans. These modifications will improve on last year’s work by the Competition Committee, which was a resounding success with our fans and for the sport. I want to thank the Commissioner’s Office, the Players Association and the Major League Umpires for their dedication to the greatest game ever invented.”
The committee did vote to table a vote on a rule change would have limited a fielder’s ability to block bases other than home plate.