Baseball is one of very few team sports without a shot clock, play clock, quarters, periods, halves, etc. — we've just got innings. This doesn’t really help MLB’s new "pace-of-play" initiative. In 2022, a game between the Twins and Guardians lasted 5 hours and 24 minutes. Just this past October, a playoff matchup between the Mariners and Astros became the longest playoff game in MLB history after a 1-0 finish in the 18th inning (that’s two games' worth of play with only one run scored!).
As a result of this, MLB has introduced some new rules, made temporary ones permanent, and banned some things to hopefully make the game quicker and more exciting. All of these were tested in the minor leagues and proven to align with what the MLB wants to do:
The rule: Pitchers will be required to throw a pitch within 15 seconds when there are no runners on base and within 20 seconds with runners. If a pitcher fails to release the baseball in time, they will be charged a ball to the count. If a batter fails to be in the batter's box ready for the pitch in time, they will be penalized with a strike.
Do we like it? The pitch clock is without a doubt the biggest change to the 2023 season. It is going to be extremely weird watching baseball without the 20-30 seconds of dead time in between every pitch. However, if the MLB’s new initiative is to speed the game up then it will certainly do that, as it shortened minor league games by 25 minutes on average in 2022. The downside? We’ve already had someone strikeout in 20 seconds this Spring!
Regardless, I... think I like the pitch clock? Players, coaches and umpires have all of Spring Training to adjust to the rule, so hopefully, by the time the regular season rolls around, it isn’t glaringly obvious how much the pitch clock changes the game. We've certainly already seen it prove controversial...
The rule: The four infielders must be within the boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber. Infielders may not switch sides. In other words, a team cannot reposition its best defender on the side of the infield the batter is more likely to hit the ball to.
Do we like it? A "shift" in baseball is when the infield and/or outfield players are out of their traditional position and playing the field in an area where the batter is known to hit the ball, leading to fewer hits, lower batting averages, and fairly routine defensive plays.
I’m all for the banning of shifts! Let the hitters play to their strengths, let the defenders show off their athleticism by going after balls that would normally be right at them in a shift, and let teams score more runs!
The rule: A runner will be placed on second base to begin the 10th inning, and in every subsequent extra inning after that, until a winner is determined.
Do we like it? Short answer, no. There’s something about a pitcher taking a loss in extra innings without allowing an earned run that doesn’t sit right with me. I guess both teams will have the same opportunity and play under the same rules, but the beauty of extra innings is that no one knows when it's going to end!
This will shorten games that go into extra innings for sure, which plays right into everything the MLB wants to accomplish with these rule changes, so W for them I guess?
The rule: First base, second base and third base increased from 15” square to 18” square.
Do we like it? Baseball is truly a "game of inches" and though three inches may not seem like a big difference, to a base-runner, it certainly is. In 2022 the bigger bases reduced base-related injuries by more than 13% across the minor leagues. But that also leads to more guys being safe when sliding head-first.
Bigger base = more surface area = more base to touch before getting tagged out. It ALSO means less distance in between bases, even if it is just a few inches. Whatever — more offense AND proven player safety? Sign me up!