On September 9, 2022, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced three rule changes that have passed approval from the Competition Committee for play during the 2023 season. The committee was created as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated between the MLB and Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) earlier this year.1
The new changes are as follows and were tested extensively at the Minor League level over the past several years and detailed based on feedback from Major League Player and Umpire representatives.
1. Pitch Timer: Pitchers are now required to initiate motion within a stated time frame and before its expiration. They now have 15 seconds between pitches in situations where bases are empty and 20 seconds in situations where there’s at least one runner on base.
Key Point: This change will improve the pace of play and reduce dead time whereby saving game time an average of 26 minutes.
2. Defensive Shift Restrictions: The point of this one is to return the game to a more traditional aesthetic by governing defensive shifts. This will encourage more balls in play whereby providing more opportunities for players to showcase their athleticism. It will also optimize defensive alignments that feature four outfielders in the following ways:
- Lateral Positioning: Two infielders must be positioned one on each side of second base when a pitch is released.
- Depth: All four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the mound.
- No Switching Sides: Infielders may not switch sides unless a substitution exists.
Key Point: Defensive alignments that feature four players in the outfield increased nearly 6x across MLB teams since 2018.
3. Bigger Bases: The size of the first, second, and third base will increase from a 15″ to an 18″ square. This will help improve player safety and keep them on the field.
Key Point: This change will reduce the distances from first to second and second to third base by 4.5,” thereby encouraging base steal attempts, which will make the game more entertaining. Base-related injuries decreased by 13.5% among Minor League situations.
Baseball Commissioner, Robert D. Manfred Jr., stated that the goal of these changes is to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries. MLB announced that it’s reached a multi-year partnership with PitchCom, the on-field technology that facilitates communication between pitchers, catchers, and teammates, which is expected to help mitigate violations of the new Pitch Timer.
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