Everything you didn’t know you need to know about MLB’s new rules

Dunedin, Florida. It’s hard to be a baseball fan at the moment and No the league is known to be making a number of relatively drastic rule changes in 2023. As part of a concerted and explicit effort to speed up the game and add more old-school action, Major League Baseball is introducing a pitching timer, no-shifts, and more for the first time. base this season.

We’ll have to wait for real games – and maybe even really meaningful games – to find out how effective these measures will be and what shenanigans can arise from their application. But between understanding the rules in the abstract and analyzing how teams try to get an advantage in optimizing them is learning the nitty gritty details of what they would look like in practice.

Accordingly, MLB held a couple of demo days to kick off spring training this week, explaining rule shenanigans and relating them to various game situations. It turns out there’s a lot more to know than you might think. Larger bases probably don’t need clarification (my point is: Compared to bases that now seem childish, this looks like a big change, but I’m sure it won’t be noticeable in the absence of a close comparison), but let’s dive into some other details.

Feed Hours

Basics: Pitchers will have 15 seconds between pitches when bases are empty and 20 seconds between pitches with runners on base. Batters must be in the box and ready by the time the countdown clock reaches eight seconds. Fouls by the pitcher result in an automatic pitch, and fouls by the batter result in an automatic hit.

To prevent pitchers from continually resetting their clocks, they will only be allowed two “offs” (i.e., rebound attempts) per bat. A third bad choice will result in a ban. Batters will receive one timeout per player.

What you didn’t know, what you need to know:

  • The clock is started when the pitchers receive the ball from the catcher, and they have time until it runs out to start pitching.

  • The pitcher’s “off” counter is reset if the runner advances. In other words, if the pitcher throws twice and then the runner successfully intercepts the second—or there’s a block or pass, etc.—the pitcher gets two more rebounds.

  • Now time-breaks are limited in time. For local games, the break is 2:15, for national games it is 2:40, and for the off-season it is 3:10.

  • The clock will be controlled by a person. MLB is currently hiring clock operators (which would be league employees, not teams known as “field timing coordinators”) to work at all 30 baseball stadiums. These people will operate a kind of switch that starts and stops the clock – two in the outfield and three behind the home court. Like the players, watchmakers will be using spring training to practice staying locked up.

  • The judges are still on the case. Essentially, all extenuating circumstances come down to the fact that referees have discretion to pause, reset, and restart the clock, which they will do by communicating with Field Timing Coordinators (FTC) via microphones and headphones. Referees may inform the FTC, for example, if they believe the clock has been started too early and they are authorized to respond to game situations. Examples: If the catcher reaches the end of the half and needs some time to put his equipment back on, the referee may wait to start the clock. If the batter is hit in the eye and needs to get out, the referee may allow it. If a manager enters the field to contest a challenge, or even if a fight breaks out, the referee may leave the clock off until the dust settles.

  • The judges will help you keep track of the time. As the seconds tick by, referees have to move into position to call balls and shoot (at least for now), which means they can’t always focus on the clock. So, to make sure they know when time is up, the judges will be given bracelets that ring when the clock hits zero.

  • The clock will not start until everyone is back in their seats. The first requirement to start the clock is that the pitcher has the ball and is on the ground of the mound. But, for example, if the ball is fouled down the line and the fielders run after it—and perhaps any base runners leave—the clock for the next pitch will not start until everyone on the field is back in position. .

  • The judges were told to look for some general evasive tactics. Namely, catchers hold the ball too long after pitching, or pitchers stop on the grass before returning to the mound. Referees have the power to warn players and award fouls if the behavior persists.

  • If the serve is served after a foul is called, it is a dead ball – meaning that even if the serve is kicked out of bounds, it does not count if there was a violation of the service clock. However, this is unlikely to happen in practice, as the referees were instructed to defiantly walk out of the game and stop the game in the event of an innings violation.

  • Pitchers could name their games. During spring training, MLB is experimenting with giving pitchers the same PitchCom wristbands that catchers used to call games last year so they can name their own pitches. That way, pitchers with a rich arsenal won’t waste time brushing off their catchers. If this practice takes place in the spring, it could be implemented as early as this regular season.

Protective positioning

Basics: The fielding team must have four fielders on the ground at the start of each field, with at least two fullbacks on each side of second base.

What you didn’t know, what you need to know:

  • Fielders must be in line with the lineup rules from the moment the pitcher starts pitching until the moment he releases the ball. In other words, they may not attempt to move to the other side of the second or retreat onto the grass during the pitch.

  • Most baseball stadiums have had to slightly resize their infield. Now that the boundary between the muddy infield and the grass on the periphery affects the rules so much, the spacing had to be standardized across all baseball fields. Before opening day, MLB will check that the edge of the grass is exactly 95 feet from the center of the mound.

  • The only exception: the Tropicana field. With the Reis spring training facility still recovering from last year’s hurricane, their spring training games will be played at their home stadium, leaving them no time to adjust the landscape. There, the outfield grass begins 97 feet from the center of the mound.

  • Teams may bring an outfielder to the ground as a fifth infielder, and he may be placed anywhere.

  • Infielders cannot switch which side of the second they are on during an inning. This is to ensure that field teams do not play their strongest defenders on the side they would move to.

  • Defensive formations can be viewed in replay, meaning the batting team can challenge if they believe the infielders were not positioned correctly.

  • The penalty for misaligned fielders is an automatic ball. If a serve is served while the fielders are not positioned correctly and the ball is put into play and the batter is hit, it stands. If the ball is put into play and something other than a hit (i.e. sacrifice) occurs, the batting team may choose whether to accept the result of the play or return to bat with an automatic ball.

Pitching supplies

This is new! Or, in fact, updated one.

As we’ve seen in the past (does anyone remember the goo crackdown?), some of baseball’s longstanding written rules have disappeared as enforcement has waned. Among them is a strict definition of delays and legitimate deliveries. Teams have begun to notice that last year several goals went unanswered. Now serving hours add an extra level of importance to clean serving; the clock stops when the pitcher starts his movement, which means there must be a clear demarcation point.

This season, when the bases are empty, offside pitchers are only allowed one step back or to the side at the start of the pitch. With runners on base, the pitcher’s pitch begins as soon as he lifts his front foot. In other words, he cannot repeatedly tap with his front foot; however, he can rock back and forth while balancing on his back foot like Nestor Cortez Jr.

The league let managers and front office staff know of pitchers known to be making illegal deliveries this off-season, officially at the winter meetings in December, to let them know that some pitchers will need to adjust to the rule.

Follow Hanna Keizer of Sportzshala Sports on Twitter @HannaRKeyser.


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