When I came across this video by one of my favorite baseball YouTubers, iTalk Studios, I immediately knew that I had to add my thoughts on these rule changes. Like iTalk, I happen to like all of these MLB rule changes for 2023, as I will get into shortly.
Dodger Blue has an excellent breakdown of the 2023 MLB rule changes, as well as the league’s discoveries in the rules’ testing in 2022 minor league games. Yes, every level of the minor leagues are already using these rule in 2022, and they have all been successful changes towards improving pace of play, reducing injuries, and putting more balls in play.
MLB Will Have Bigger Bases in 2023 – 15 in across to 18 in across
Increasing the size of the bases was a measure taken to reduce injury risks on the base-paths. Dodger Blue reported that base-related injuries have fallen 13 ½ percent at every level of the minor leagues. Therefore, this measure succeeded on that front.
However, this increased base size also creates a 4 and a half inch reduction in the distance between first and second base, and from second to third base. So, we’ll obviously see more stolen base attempts, which was completely intentional. In fact, stolen base attempts across the minor leagues have increased 9 percent. As a big fan of action on the basepaths, I’m completely for this change, along with the benefits of injury risk reduction. More steals of home plate, please?
Of course, many MLB catchers aren’t thrilled about the increase in stolen base chances, as now their jobs will become much harder. Rangers catcher Jonah Heim noted how “outrageously fast” many players in MLB are today.
Pitch Clock Coming to Major League Baseball in 2023
A pitch clock has been suggested for baseball to help pace of play, and many minor league teams have already been using it prior to 2022 on a limited basis. In 2022, all levels of the minor leagues added a pitch clock. This includes a 30 second timer between batters, a 15 second timer between pitches with no one on base, and a 20 second timer between pitches with runners on base. Batters who violate the rule are charged with an automatic strike and pitchers who violate the clock are charged with an automatic ball. There are a bunch of other related rules, including a limit on stepping off the rubber and pick-off attempts. Interestingly, these rules are a lot stricter than what we’ve seen in other leagues, thanks to the nuances of the sport.
But, I’m perfectly fine with adding a pitch clock. After all, they’ve been using similar technology for pace of play in basketball and football for years. The NFL added the play clock in 1970 when the AFL and NFL merged and NBA basketball has had a shot clock since 1954! Baseball needed this change to improve pace of play and keep the action nonstop. The changes from the pitch clock are already extremely obvious; nine-inning minor league games dropped from a league average of 3 hours and 4 minutes in 2021 to 2 hours and 38 minutes in 2022. This means fewer opportunities for sponsored breaks in the action, but I’m personally fine with this. I’m all about saving time.
Understandably, pitchers are very mixed about the pitch clock. MLB pitchers have heard from their friends in the minor leagues that it’s definitely affecting pitchers mentally. The biggest issue is in full counts (three balls and two strikes) when the pitcher isn’t sure what to throw, violates the pitch clock, and gives up a free base on balls, as Dodgers lefty Alex Vesia pointed out.
Limits to Defensive Shifts Codified in the MLB Rule Book for 2023
At least four defenders must be on the infield, with two infielders required to be on either side of second base when the pitch is released. Also, all four infielders must have both of their feet within the infield boundary when the pitcher is on the rubber. Also, infielders cannot switch sides unless there is a substitution.
Naturally, limiting defensive shifts is an attempt to have more balls put in play. MLB officials have commented that they want to see baseball players show off their athleticism and eliminate the four outfielder shifts that have become increasingly common since 2018. While we haven’t seen this limitation in practice yet, I’m all for pull hitters being able to rip more RBI singles than swinging for the fences and striking out.
As I’ve been a baseball fan since around 2000, no doubt the game will revert more to how older fans like myself are used to seeing. While I like the creativity of defensive shifts, things have gotten out of hand. Notably, you can still bring an outfielder into the infield, and it’s fully possible we’ll see infielders flip-flop positions during an inning. No more putting five defenders on one side of the infield, and I’m all for not seeing that anymore. As it turns out, many players and managers alike are actually with this change.
PitchCom to Become the Standard for Pitch Calling in MLB for 2023
One rule change that iTalk Studios didn’t mention in his video was the implementation of PitchCom for all thirty MLB teams in 2023. In 2022, the technology has been used voluntarily across Major League Baseball. The advantage of PitchCom wearables are that the pitcher will be able to receive signals from the catcher instantaneously, as well as other teammates, which is an obvious attempt to eliminating sign stealing. Not only is this going to remove the opportunity for using video cameras to know what pitch is coming, but also reduce violations of the pitch clock.
Overall, I’m thrilled with these rule changes. Now we’ll see players show off more speed, and we’ll see more base hits, also a plus for batting average. Both of these changes are a huge boon for fantasy baseball players everywhere. Also, we may see a reduction in strikeouts, as pull hitters will be fine with hitting a single safely to drive in a run. Plus, since stolen bases and advancing runners is now much more viable as a strategy (aka “small ball”), teams don’t have to rely on sluggers to produce the majority of their runs.
I’m all for a much more dynamic, quicker paced game of baseball. I think the players will actually appreciate seeing their games being 30 minutes shorter on average, reducing fatigue and making those red-eye flights a little bit easier to catch after a night game. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde agrees that the changes should improve the player experience as well as the fan experience. More players will show off their speed and defensive players will get to shine even more once again. It’s going to be a treat seeing a lot of teams carrying a speedster as their 26th player to steal a base in a pinch, as this seems like an obvious move for all 30 MLB teams.
Who doesn’t want a more exciting game? I do think that a lot of players are going to be resistant of these changes. We already know for sure that the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon isn’t a fan of the 2023 MLB rule changes. Other players such as the Giants’ Austin Slater aren’t thrilled with the rule changes, but are open to make adjustment if these changes actually improve the sports and are viewed positively by fans.
What do you think of these Major League Baseball rule changes? I’m in the overwhelmingly positive category myself, but I can see both sides of the argument; I’d love to hear your thoughts!