Pitch clock, shift restrictions, bigger rules and other changes coming to MLB in 2023

Major League Baseball rules aren’t something handed down on stone slabs from above, yet some act as if they are, and they should be forever immutable.

This is clearly not the case and never has been. The game has always evolved and the rules have changed many times. The strike area has been expanded, reduced, expanded again and moved. The pile was raised, then lowered. There are many other examples.

In recent years, the pace of play has become a matter of concern for MLB officials; Games are much longer than they were two decades ago. Additionally, defensive shifts have been observed to remove hits and force many hitters to think about the “launch angle” and try to hit balls during these transitions. How many times have we seen Jason Hayward hit a ball that would have been a singles years ago, only to find himself knocked out by a third baseman playing on a short field right? I used to be vehemently against any limitation on defensive shifting, but things like that changed my mind.

The MLB has established a Joint Competition Committee consisting of six members from ownership/management, four players and a referee, and this committee has considered the above changes, as well as many others. Here are the committee members. According to SNY’s Andy Martino last June:

According to the league’s source, the players on the new Joint Competition Committee are Jack Flaherty of the St. Louis Cardinals, Wyatt Merryfield of the Kansas City Royals, Tyler Glasno of the Tampa Bay Rays and Austin Slater of the San Francisco Giants. Ian Haap of the Chicago Cubs will serve as Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers as a substitute.

On the property side are Seattle’s John Stanton, St. Louis’s Bill DeWitt, San Francisco’s Greg Johnson, Colorado Dick Monfort, Boston’s Tom Werner, and Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro.

There is one referee on the panel, veteran crew chief Bill Miller.

Therefore, there is some representation of the Cubs on this committee, albeit as an alternative. (Note that Merrifield traded with the Blue Jays in August.)

As reported by Ivan Drillic and Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic Thursday, this committee will hold a vote on Friday on several rule changes that will take effect in MLB in 2023. All of these changes are expected to be approved.

There is a lot to unpack here so I will try to summarize and you can move on to this article, or This is by Jesse Rogers at ESPN.com for more details. Here are the upcoming rule changes, along with my comments.

  • Under the proposed pitch clock, bowlers would have 20 seconds to start a pitching move with the runners at the base, 15 seconds with the bases empty.

Suspension: This is similar (though a second or two) to the clock that has been used in minor leagues for the past few years. There has been a time limit on rule books for decades; It has never been imposed. Now it will be. There are other limits here, including having the catcher ready in nine seconds and the paddle in the box “alert the bowler” in eight seconds. According to the article:

Jugs that break the clock are shipped with an automatic spool. If the catcher misfires, a motorized ball is also charged. The offending racket receives an automatic hit. Referees can also award a ball or kick if they discover a player cheating on the clocks, and the Commissioner’s office can issue a disciplinary measure beyond that for teams where players or staff are also violating the rules.

They’ll have to start working on this soon – perhaps in the Arizona Fall League, certainly in spring training – so the players can get a feel for it, although many have already started since this sort of thing has been in effect in many of the minor leagues. . for several seasons. Then MLB has to get serious about enforcement.

There are other new rules about how many times a hitter can call time during an at-bat (once) and how many times a bowler can go down (twice) and these are all called “disengaging” and resetting the clock. It’s complicated, so check the article links above for more details. Here, however, is what happened when all this was applied to the minor leagues, from Jesse Rogers’ article:

When a stricter stadium clock — based on a 14-second clock with the rules blank and an 18-second clock with the runners in place — was introduced in minors earlier this season, the results were immediate. During the first 132 matches in the minor league According to the new rules, the average game time was 2 hours and 39 minutes. That’s 20 minutes shorter than the control group’s average time of 335 games without the watch to start the season (2 hours, 59 minutes) and 24 minutes shorter than the 2021 season average (3 hours, 3 minutes on average).

this is good. You will notice the difference; Many games will likely end at less than 2:30 in 2023. For example, Cubs made three games of exactly nine runs shorter than that in 2022. In terms of exit scores, according to Rogers:

In 2021, when take-off rules went into effect in Single-A and High-A, loot base attempts skyrocketed. This year, as the rules are expanded to include every league, baseball is seeing significant gains across minors, despite less steep rises. According to MLB.com, the average stolen base attempts in minors has reached 2.85 attempts per game so far this year — no team in the majors last year reached an average of one.

  • “Walk music cannot exceed 10 seconds in length. Music between pitches should be limited so that hitters are not encouraged to leave the box.”

Suspension: This is interesting, as mobile music has been encouraged in recent years. But some clips, as you’ve definitely noticed if you’re on the playing field, can last a little longer. This will help speed things up.

  • Here are the new defensive shift rules, from the Drelish and Rosenthal article:

When the bowler releases the ball, there must be at least four players (plus the bowler and the standby) both feet in front of the outer boundary of the dirt, and two players must be on either side of the second base.

Each team must assign two players to each side of the second base who may not switch sides during the game, unless there is a replacement for one of these attackers.

Suspension: The second part here is really the key – this will prevent something I noted above, which is seeing a third baseman or shortstop playing on a correct short field. Note, however, that it says “when the bowler shoots the ball.” I can see players on the field training, then doing something where they put themselves on the dirt, then backtrack 10-20 steps on the grass once the ball is released. We’ll see how this works in practice, if they do.

The penalty for violating this is a ball and the ball is dead, unless:

…the hitter reaches a hit, a foul, a walk, a hit the batsman, etc., in which case the play stands. If any other play occurs, such as a sacrifice fly, or a sacrifice strike, the batting team manager can tell the referee if he wants to accept the play.

Just wait for those things to go re-review, and Drelish and Rosenthal write that teams “can challenge” whether their opponent has complied with the shift rules.

  • The bases will increase in size from 15 inches square to 18 inches square.

Suspension: These have been tested in minor leagues this year. There are two reasons here: 1) to help reduce casualties around bases, and 2) to help increase base loot attempts. Bear Rogers:

In Triple-A, season one of Big Bases didn’t make much of a change on its own – but at lower levels, the bigger bases along with rules around the bumps saw big increases in steals per nine innings. Even with the disengagement rules, MLB does not believe that either change will result in teams not being able to control the running game.

What the MLB believes may not correspond to reality; There are always unintended consequences of things like this. If they find that things go too far in one direction, the rules can always be modified to deal with these types of issues.

I will conclude by reiterating what I said to start this article: Baseball has always evolved over its century and a half of existence as a professional sport. Although an 1872 fan will recognize the game today, there are many variations that we take for granted—for example, the pitch distance of 60 feet and six inches wasn’t standardized until 1893. They could have the pitcher throw. Players used to be able to throw the ball at the primary runner to get him out. Sure, all of these rules have changed over a century ago, but my point is: the sport must evolve to fit the conditions of the time in which it is played. These changes are trying to do so. I am with them all.


The stadium clock is as shown here…


Limitations on defensive shifts as shown here…


The bigger rules are as shown here…