Last September, MLB competition committee voted to implement rule changes for the 2023 season. Now that spring training has arrived, it’s time to break down these changes, all of which are designed to speed up the pace of play and increase action on the field.
All four infielders must be on the infield dirt with two on each side of second base. Players can move after the ball is pitched. If the defending team violates the rule and an out is recorded, the hitting team can decide to add a ball to the hitter’s count or leave the play as stands. If a batter reaches safely, the play stands. Batters are in favor of the new rules, as batting averages have plummeted since the shift has been used regularly.
Pitchers will now have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. In addition, batters must be in the box ready to hit with eight seconds on the clock. If the pitcher hasn’t started his motion before the clock expires, he will be penalized with a ball. If the batter isn’t ready to hit by the eight-second mark, he will get a strike. The time will be monitored by two clocks located behind home plate on either side of the umpire with two more in the outfield. The idea is to speed up the pace of play, since MLB games have been generally increasing in time, although were down slightly in 2022.
Pitchers are allowed two “disengagements” per plate appearance. A disengagement consists of any of the following: a step off, throw to the base, or a fake throw. If a runner advances during the same plate appearance due to wild pitch, passed ball, or stolen base, the rule resets. If a pitcher steps off a third time, he will be charged with a balk. MLB is attempting to see more action on the bases in terms of stolen base attempts, which was at an all-time low in 2022.
The bases will increase from 15 inches to 18 inches with the idea that larger bases should lower incidents of injury, while increasing stolen base attempts. When base size was increased at lower minor league levels, stolen base attempts increased, although the same couldn’t be said at the Triple-A level.
After discussing the rule changes in MLB, let’s switch gears and dive into the excitement of the Super Bowl.