MLB Rule Changes For 2023: Pitch Timer, Ban On Shifts, Plus More

Major League Baseball announced three rule changes approved by the joint competition committee that will be implemented for the 2023 season, including Spring Training.

The competition committee, which was created as part of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB and the Players Association (MLBPA), approved by a majority vote the addition of a pitch clock, restrictions on shifting and bigger bases.

The changes adopted by the league were tested throughout the Minor League level over the past few years and include adjustments based on feedback from MLB players and umpires.

“These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

“Throughout the extensive testing of recent years, Minor League personnel and a wide range of fans – from the most loyal to casual observers – have recognized the collective impact of these changes in making the game even better and more enjoyable. We appreciate the participation of the representatives of the Major League Players and Umpires in this process.”

Pitch timer

The pitch clock is intended to improve pace of play and reduce dead time. The rule states a pitcher must begin his motion before the expiration of the 15-second timer, or 20 seconds with at least one runner on base.

Pitchers are allowed to step off the rubber twice per plate appearance without penalty, which resets the clock. Any more will result in a balk unless an out is recorded on a runner. Additionally, the pitch clock resets if the baserunner advances.

Meanwhile, a hitter must be in the batter’s box with at least eight seconds remaining and they receive one timeout per plate appearance.

Umpires have the authority to provide additional time if warranted for special circumstances, such as the father making the last out of an inning and needing more time to put his gear on.

During testing in the Minor Leagues, the average time of a nine-inning game was reduced by 26 minutes, from 3:04 to 2:38. Stolen base success rate also increased by 9% in the 2022 season and the games averaged just 0.45 violations in their most recent week of play.

Ban on defensive shift for infielders

MLB is also adding restrictions on where defenders can line up on the field before the pitch is thrown.

Two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base when the pitch is released, and all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber. They may not switch sides unless there is a substitution.

MLB said the goal of the new shift rules is to encourage more balls in play, give players more opportunities to showcase their athleticism and offset the growing trend of alignments that feature four outfielders, which increased by nearly six times since the start of the 2018 season.

Bigger bases

The size of first, second and third base is increasing from the standard 15″ square to an 18″ square. The goal is to improve player safety and encourage teams to steal more frequently.

Throughout their testing, base-related injuries decreased by 13.5% with declines at every level of the Minor Leagues.

The base size also reduces the distance between them by 4.5″, making it slightly easier for players to steal a bag, which the league hopes will to an increase in stolen base attempts.

MLB extends partnership with PitchCom

In addition to the rule changes, MLB announced a new multi-year agreement with PitchCom, the on-field technology that facilitates communication between pitchers and catchers, as well as teammates.

PitchCom has been used on a voluntary basis by all 30 teams this season, with mostly positive feedback. PitchCom technology allows pitchers to receive signals from the catcher instantaneously and is expected to help mitigate violations of the new pitch timer.

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