What you need to know about MLB’s 2023 rule changes
Major league change is coming! Last September, Major League Baseball’s competition committee voted to make changes to the rules that will take effect when spring practice games begin this month. All of these rules have been in place in the minor leagues in previous seasons, resulting in significant changes in pace of play and action on the pitch.
The rules include first-ever pitching hours, offset elimination, big bases, and a limit on how many times a pitcher can come off the rubber. Here’s everything you need to know about the new rules, what they mean to players, and how the game might change.
New rule: During the throw, all four fielders must be on the infield (or infield grass), two on each side of second base. Players will be able to move as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. Initially, fielders who started the game on one side of the field were not allowed to switch sides throughout the game, but this was only changed for every inning – unless there was a mid-half substitution. In other words, a player who starts an inning at first or second base must remain on that side of the field for the entire inning, but may switch to short or third base in the next inning. If there is an injury midway through the half, then the infield may be dropped.
How it will be done: If the offensive team reaches the base and the runners are advancing on the fouled ball, play continues without penalty. If the play has any other consequence—out, sacrifice, etc.—the offensive team may decide to either accept the penalty—which adds one ball to the offensive player’s score—or reject it, and the game is over. stand.
What they are trying to change: The league’s batting average has dropped to .243 in 2022, the lowest since 1968. At the heart of the decline is the lack of singles, in part, with the 2022 rate of 5.33 per team the third-lowest in MLB history. The 2020 seasons are two spots ahead of him on the permanent list.
What does this mean in juveniles: During the first two months of the 2022 minor league season, at the lower levels of the minor leagues where shifts are regulated, the average batting per game by left-handed hitters increased by eight points. In Triple-A, where shifts are not prohibited, the increase was only three points.
What the players are saying: It would be hard to find an attacker, especially a lefty, who doesn’t agree with the removal of bias.
“When we were growing up, we never had that,” Dodgers outfielder Joey Gallo said last season. “It’s hard to adjust to it because it wasn’t there in the lower grades… Over time it got more extreme and more effective. From a striker’s point of view, that’s something that could have been changed.”
Surprisingly, some pitchers also joined in the move.
“My biggest complaint about the shift: how do you explain this to the kids?” Phillies pitcher David Robertson said. “What’s the point of having a shortstop if he can’t play shortstop?”
New rule: Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw with empty bases and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Strikers must be in the batter’s field with eight seconds on the pitching clock.
How it will be done: If the pitcher has not started “moving on the pitch” before the time expires, he will be charged with the ball. If a batter delays entering the box, he will be charged with a strike.
Each stadium will have two clocks located behind the home court on either side of the referee, and two more will be required in the outfield on either side of the batter’s eyes. Spring stadiums may only have one outfield clock, but otherwise they will follow the exact same parameters as MLB stadiums. Each referee will be equipped with technology that will let them know when the serving time is up. And for the first time, judges will also have the ability to talk to each other via communication devices without having to meet in the middle of the infield.
What they are trying to change: The average nine-inning major league game time in 2022 was 3 hours and 4 minutes, actually six minutes short of the 2021 all-time high, but game times have steadily risen since first crossing the three-hour mark in 2014.
While it’s not directly correlated, Statcast’s pitching tempo tracker shows that 110 pitchers averaged at least 20 seconds per pitch with empty bases in 2022.
What does this mean in juveniles: When earlier in 2022, stricter submission clock enforcement began in the lower grades, based on 14-second clocks with empty bases and 18-second clocks with runners, the results were immediate. In the first 132 minor league games under the new rules, the average game time was 2 hours and 39 minutes. That’s 20 minutes short of the season’s start-of-season average of 335 games without a clock (2 hours 59 minutes) and 24 minutes short of the 2021 season average of 3 hours 3 minutes.
What the players are saying: Reaction to pitching hours was mixed, with veteran pitchers worried about rushing into high-shoulder situations. But a lot of the younger players who have been playing juniors for the last couple of seasons have gotten used to it. In addition to the new selection rules, which are tied to serving hours, this will cause the most controversy among players.
New rule: Pickoffs are one version of the “cut-off” that consists of any time a pitcher attempts a pick, fakes a pickoff, or simply goes off the rubber for any reason, as well as when the defense asks for time. Pitchers are allowed two eliminations for bowling without penalty. The disable rule is reset if the runner or runners advance to the base within the same plate appearance.
How it will be done: After the third pitch, the pitcher will be charged with blocking unless at least one hitter advances to base or an out is made in the subsequent play after the pitch.
What they are trying to change: The lack of action on base lanes has been a concern for MLB in recent attempts to improve the aesthetics of the sport, with stolen bases per team down to 0.51 per game in 2022 from 0.66 a decade ago. (In the 1980s and 1990s, the basic theft rate hovered around 0.75.)
What does this mean in juveniles: In 2021, with the interception rules in Single-A and High-A taking effect, base stealing attempts skyrocketed. In 2022, with the rules extended to every league, baseball has made big strides across all minors.
New rule: The base size will be increased from 15 inches to 18 inches.
What they are trying to change: Increasing the size of bases should reduce injuries around them and increase base steal attempts.
What does this mean in juveniles: In Triple-A, the first season of big bases did not lead to much change on its own, but at the lower levels, big bases combined with robbery rules led to a significant increase in nine-inning steals. However, even when combined with the disengagement rules, MLB does not believe any change will result in teams being unable to control the flow of the game. Injuries around the pouch were reduced after an increase in base size was introduced in juveniles.
Positional serving of players
New rule: Teams will be more limited in when they can pitch a position player. The previous rule allowed them to use one when up or down by six or more runs, but the sides are discussing a setup in which the leading team would have to move up by as much as 10 or more, while the trailing team would have to. down by eight or more to serve a positional player. The league and the players are finalizing the new rule.
What they are trying to change: The league, and now the players themselves, agree that too many positional players are taking over the mound during the season. In fact, players find it has more and more of an impact on production, from offensive numbers to even defensive numbers, all of which come into play during arbitrage and free rein. In 2017, there were 32 cases of serve by positional players in the game. Last season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that number jumped to 132.