Major League Baseball is going to look dramatically different in 2023, in many ways that should please purists.
MLB’s competition committee voted Friday afternoon to pass numerous rule changes for 2023, which were first detailed by The Athletic.
Included among them:
• The elimination of infield shifts
• The institution of a pitch clock
• Bigger bases
• A limit on pickoff attempts
These are all rules designed to either speed up the game, increase the number of balls in play, revitalize the running game or all of the above.
The defensive shift rule states that a team must have two fielders stationed completely on either side of second base when a pitch is thrown. A team must also have a minimum of four players with their feet on the outer boundary of the infield dirt.
Visualize the groundout from a left-handed hitter deep into the hole between first and second base. You’ve seen it a zillion times over the years with a lefty who pulls the ball frequently on the ground. This rule change would prevent teams from defending players in that way.
It stands to benefit hitters whether they utilize all fields or are prone to pulling the ball when hitting it on the ground.
It will unquestionably lead to more singles, which have been devalued over the past decade because it has never been harder to hit one. The league-wide batting average this season (.243) is the lowest it’s been since 1967.
The limit on shifting should lead to a more contact-based approach around the league. Players currently selling out for power may change their philosophy with base hits more attainable.
A pitcher will have a 15-second limit to deliver a pitch with the bases empty, 20 seconds with the bases occupied. If a pitcher violates the rule, he is charged with an automatic ball. If a batter violates the rule by not having both feet set in the batter’s box in the required time, he will be dealt an automatic strike.
Mound visits will also be limited to 30 seconds from the time the manager or pitching coach leaves the dugout.
The minor leagues have used the pitch clock this season and minor-league games have been shortened by an average of 26 minutes, according to the Associated Press.
Bases will increase in size from 15 inches square to 18 inches. The theory is that this will help prevent injury and give base-stealers a slight advantage.
A pitcher will be able to step off the mound for a pickoff or any other reason a maximum of twice per plate appearance. The limit resets if the runner advances via steal, wild pitch or passed ball.
A pitcher can attempt a third pickoff but if it doesn’t result in an out, it is an automatic balk.
The changes will take effect next spring training. While some will be turned off by them, they should increase the pace of games and decrease stagnant periods, potentially creating a style of play closer to what you saw 20 years ago than 20 days ago.