Here’s a look at baseball’s new pitch clock, larger bases that MLB hopes liven up the game
In 2023, baseball will not only be played under the new rules. The game will look different.
On Tuesday, MLB unveiled larger bases and step clocks that will adorn diamonds starting this spring. The clock is hard to miss. The bases are noticeably larger than in the previous iteration.
The physical changes to the game are accompanied by a set of new rules designed to increase the number of actions and reduce the time of the game. Along with the restrictions on defensive shifts and the constant renewal of the ghost runner for additional features, the changes are part of a concerted effort to generate interest in the game.
MLB unveiled new bases and game hours in Scottsdale, Arizona, to the media on Tuesday, the day before pitchers and catchers are due to report for spring practice. Since September, we have known that the base size will increase from 15×15 inches to 18×18 inches. Now we know what it looks like.
Here’s the new MLB base lined up next to the retired version:
Baseball is hoping that more surface area will encourage more base steal attempts, a cutting art that is also one of the most exciting games in the game.
Sunset of the stolen base
Per Baseball AlmanacMLB players have successfully stolen a total of 2,487 bases in 2022. Although an increase from the 2,214 bases stolen a year earlier, this still represents a sharp decline from a 15-year peak of 3,279 bases stolen in 2011. a 24.2% drop from that high.
The last figures are not a deviation from the norm. Each season from 1982 to 1993, MLB players successfully steal over 3,000 bases. Extend the time frame to 1999 and there were over 3,000 interceptions in 16 out of 18 seasons. Only twice since 2002 has baseball broken the 3,000 steal barrier.
As hitters struggled to get balls into play for various reasons, including offset, they increasingly relied on home runs to get results, a strategy that leans towards all-or-nothing results. Simply infiltrating the base and looking for the theft has become less of a priority. This tends to lead to long breaks in action, a sub-optimal circumstance for a fan base with a dwindling attention span.
Let’s speed up the process
Baseball is also hoping to avoid marathon games. According to baseball handbook, the average nine-inning game in 2022 was 3:03. A year earlier, the game average was 3:11 in nine innings. Throw the clock back to 1984, and baseball games raced by at 2:35 for nine innings. Since then, the length of the game has steadily increased. Again, not good for the dwindling attention span of today’s American sports fans.
Enter, clock in increments:
Nobody misses this.
The ball clock will be placed around the ball courts where both hitters and batters can see it. Forwards must be in the box and ready to play within eight seconds. If not, then it’s a strike. When the bases are empty, pitchers must start pitching for 15 seconds. If not, then it’s a ball. With men on base, pitchers have 20 seconds.
The clock is started when the batter and catcher are in position near home plate and the ball is at the pitcher. There are 30 second clocks between batters and mound visits will be limited to 30 seconds.
This will of course require adjustments in a game that is notoriously slow to develop. Players, managers and referees will face new challenges starting with spring training. There will be growing pains. MLB is counting on these growth challenges to pay off in the long run.