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Quick Notes: Details of the three rule changes coming to MLB next season
The MLB Joint Competition Committee has approved 3 rule changes for 2023 -- a pitch timer, bigger bases, and a limit on defensive shifts.
Here are the details of the three rule changes coming to Major League Baseball next season as approved by the Joint Competition Committee.
There will be a 30-second timer between batters to create a quicker pace of play. Between pitches, there will be a 15-second timer with empty bases and a 20-second timer with runners on base. At last check, the pitch timer had reduced the average time of the game in MiLB by about 26 minutes. This rule, which includes limits on throws to first base, has also increased stolen-base attempts. With this rule in place in the Minors this season, steal attempts per game have increased from 2.23 in 2019, at a 68% success rate, to 2.83 in 2022, at a 77% success rate.
The pitcher must begin his motion to deliver the pitch before the expiration of the pitch timer.
Pitchers who violate the timer are charged with an automatic ball. Batters who violate the timer are charged with an automatic strike.
Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark or be charged with an automatic strike.
With runners on base, the timer resets if the pitcher attempts a pickoff or steps off the rubber.
Pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.
If a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.
Mound visits, injury timeouts, and offensive team timeouts do not count as disengagement.
If a team has used up all five allotted mound visits before the ninth inning, that team will receive an additional mound visit in the ninth inning. This effectively serves as an additional disengagement.
Umpires may provide extra time if warranted by special circumstances. (So if, as an example, a catcher were to be thrown out on the bases to end the previous half-inning and needed additional time to put on his catching gear, the umpire could allow it.)
DEFENSIVE SHIFT LIMITS
The defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, with at least two infielders completely on either side of the second base. These restrictions are intended to increase the ball batting average in play, allow infielders to showcase their athleticism better, and restore more traditional outcomes on batted balls. As of this writing, the league-wide batting average on balls in play of .291 in 2022 is six points lower than in 2012 and 10 points lower than in 2006. This is related to an increase in infield shifts over the years, which have risen by 589% since the start of the 2018 season.
The four infielders must be within the outer boundary of the infield (i.e., cleats in the dirt) 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.
This rule does not preclude a team from positioning an outfielder in the infield or the shallow outfield grass in certain situations. But it does prohibit four-outfielder alignments.
The bases, which traditionally have been 15 inches square, will instead be 18 inches square. The home plate size will remain unchanged.
Though this can have a modest impact on the stolen-base success rate, the primary goal of this change is to give players more room to operate and avoid collisions. This is especially important at first base, where fielders have an extra 3-inch advantage to avoid harm from the baserunner while receiving throws.
This change will create a four 1/2-inch reduction in the distance between first and second base and second base and third, encouraging more stolen-base attempts. The bigger bases could also reduce oversliding, in which a player loses contact with the bag while sliding through it.