3 New Rules added by MLB to hopefully speed up games in 2023
Last updated 2/21/2023 at 12:36pm
If you’re from the “old school” like I am and hate to see changes in the way major league baseball is being played, then this column is probably not for you.
But if you think the game is too slow—and almost boring—you might want to give the three new rules that will be used during the 2023 MLB season a chance to actually speed up the game and make it more exciting again.
According to an article in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, “MLB games averaged three hours, 11 minutes in 2021. They took only 2:33 in 1981. The length of playoff games has increased 22 minutes in the past decade. Great sport, not-so-great games.
“Most of the added time is due to the amount of time taken (wasted) between pitches.
Spitting, scratching, thinking, walking, rubbing—it takes forever. Then the batter steps out of the box and the maddening process starts all over again. The new pitch clock will fix that,” the article reveals.
More than half of the runs scored in the past few years came by virtue of the home run. But with each team having a handful of pitchers who can throw 100 mph. the number of strikeouts per game increased dramatically, thus reducing the number of baserunners and the number of runs scored per game.
One the biggest problems of keeping runners off base has been over-use of the defensive analytics that overloads one side of the diamond—mostly against left-handed hitters—with the second baseman playing 175 feet in the outfield and able to throw out the batter who smashes a line drive between first and second base for what should have been a solid single.
These defensive shifts have been proven successful for the manager, but very unproductive for the hitters—especially the lefties--and boring for the fans. Left-handed hitters’ on-base percentage (.309), batting average (.236) and wOBA (.306) last season were the worst in at least 21 years.
To make matters worse, while the shift took away hits from left-handed batters, the flow of lefties into the big leagues declined. There are fewer left-handed hitters in MLB than at any time in the past two decades. From 2013-2022 at-bats by lefties dropped 12 per cent.
The new rule for 2023 states that the defensive infield must have two players to the right of second base and two to the left of second before the pitch is made. And all infielders must have their cleats on infield dirt at the same time. Now solid shots by left-handed hitters will definitely be base hits and not long outs.
The new pitch clock rule should prove interesting, especially for those who dawdle between pitches. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw the baseball with no runners on base and 20 seconds with a runner on base.
If time elapses without a pitch, pitchers are charged a ball. Hitters must be in the batter’s box at the eight-second mark or will be accessed a strike.
Pitchers are allowed two “disengagements” which include pickoff attempts or stepping off the rubber during a plate appearance. If a runner advances during the plate appearance, the number is reset at two. If third pickoff attempt is made, the runner is allowed to advance one base.
First, second and third base bags will increase in size by three inches, and should lead to more stolen bases for the enjoyment of the fans. The changes will reduce the distance between bases by 4 ½ inches. Home plate will remain the same.
Starting extra innings with a runner on second base, which began in the 2020 season as a pandemic-related measure, will become permanent during the regular season, according to ESPN.
Home teams went 113-103 in extra-inning games last year and are 262-263 in extra-innings since the runner on second rule started in 2020, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Using position players as pitchers also was tightened by the Rules Committee. They will be limited to extra innings, when a player’s team is losing by eight or more runs or is winning by 10 or more runs in the ninth inning. Last year a position player could pitch only in extra innings or if his team was losing or winning by six or more runs.
These rules changes for the 2023 MLB season may not help speed up the game much, but it should show a dramatic rise in the batting averages of left-handed hitters.
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