Blue Jays: A refresher on which MLB rules are changing in 2023
We've known about the new rules coming to Major League Baseball since last summer, but with Spring Training right around the corner, they're close to becoming a reality.
MLB has released details about the rule changes and provided answers to some common questions to help baseball fans prepare for what they'll be seeing on the field in 2023.
Per Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com, the new rules were tested in over 8,000 minor league-level games and the independent Atlantic League, so MLB knows that the changes will work as intended.
Rule # 1: Pitch timer
The pitch timer, or "pitch clock," will help trim down the average length of games and lead to a faster pace of play with more action, both at the plate and on the basepaths.
Here are the key points you need to know about the pitch timer:
- There is a 30-second timer between batters.
- With the bases empty, pitchers have 15 seconds to begin their delivery motion.
- With runners on, pitchers have 20 seconds to begin their delivery motion.
- Batters have eight seconds to get in the batter's box and be "alert" to the pitcher.
So what happens if a pitcher exceeds their time limit?
The timer starts after the pitcher receives the ball. If a pitcher, for any reason, doesn't begin their delivery before the clock expires, they will be charged with an automatic ball. Likewise, if a batter is not ready at the eight-second mark, he will be penalized with an automatic strike.
Another interesting wrinkle is that pitchers are limited to two disengagements from the mound per plate appearance with runners on base. This includes step-offs and pickoff attempts, which reset the timer.
Rule #2: Shift restrictions
The limits on defensive shifting will be a welcome sight for batters and fans alike. MLB intends for the rules to "increase the batting average on balls in play, and allow infielders to better showcase their athleticism with great defensive plays."
Here are the basics you need to know about the shift restrictions:
- All infielders must be within the outer boundary of the infield (on the dirt cut-out).
- Infielders cannot switch sides of the infield (past second base).
- Four-man outfields are no longer allowed, although outfielders can be repositioned as teams see fit.
Considering 33% of all plate appearances in 2022 came against a shift, we're going to see more balls in play go for hits, leading to more action in the field.
Rule #3: Bigger bases
MLB is increasing the size of first, second and third base from 15 to 18 inches square. That may not seem like much, but it's an increase of 44% more base area. MLB's main reason for increasing base sizes is player safety, allowing fielders and runners more room to avoid collisions.
While not a rule change, per se, using larger bases is a minor modification to the field that could affect a big part of the game. The distance between bases will be reduced by 4.5 inches. This could lead to players being more aggressive on the basepaths, resulting in more steal attempts, especially when combined with the new pitch timer.
It will be interesting to see how players receive the new rules, but so far, the feedback from players who have played with the changes has been positive.
While there are sure to be hiccups at first, with the changes being introduced in Spring Training, players and fans can get accustomed to the new rules and be ready for Opening Day.