Don’t you just hate it when the Pitchers take their time to ready up? Does it get your dander right up when the Infield looks like they’re taking it easy and it’s going to cost your team the game?
That’s all valuable time and opportunities that are lost and they add up. Are you prepared to sit through an average of over three hours of game-time when you know it could be cut down?
For some of you, the notion of watching and digesting the innings is a pleasure, for others, they see time-wasting and a lack of action.
The MLB have been conducting research into this very issue and they’ve come back with THREE important rule changes for the new season. Read on to find out what they are and we’ll explain why.
Rule One: Time to Pitch
The first of the new rules coming into effect in the new season will the introduction of a PITCH TIMER.
Game length will still proceed through innings rather than minutes but the intention of the rule is to make pitching and batting more pacey and efficient.
For Pitchers, there are two lengths of time granted to them in which to make their swing at the batter. The first is 15 seconds from receiving the ball, with empty bases. The second is 20 seconds with runners on the bases.
If they fail to comply, they risk an automatic ball foul.
That’s not all for Pitchers. They’ll also only have two disengagements when on the mound, per plate appearance and when there’s already a runner on the first base.
What about Batters?
Keeping up the pace, Batters will get a clear-cut 30 second turnaround between batters and they’ve got to be ready by the 8-second mark on the pitcher’s clock or they risk an automatic strike.
According to the MLB, the average length of a game has now reached just over three hours in the last 10 years.
The biggest culprit is the amount of time wasted in the set up to pitches. Cutting out the dead time and maximizing action is the objective of the PITCH TIMER.
Matt Carpenter, a MLB veteran Infielder with the San Diego Padres has grown to like the idea after working with it in Triple A.
‘Initially, I hated [the pitch timer]… I grew into liking it a lot — to the point where I would fully endorse it in the Major League game … The big selling point is that the pace of the game is way better. It just is,’ he said.
Rule Two: Shift up Infield
So the MLB sees a new way to increase batting average and showcase talent and that involves shaking up the infield for the defensive team. They’ll do this with SHIFT RESTRICTIONS.
The rule states that the defensive team is required to have no less than four players infield. There also has be more than two infield players flanking left and right of the second base.
The franchise believes this will do two key things; the first is improve the batting averages for the balls that are in play and the second to allow the infielders to show off their defensive talents
So this one is about increasing the chances of balls in play actually counting for something and also to make infielders run to catch rather than sticking around in a general area where the ball is anticipated to land.
MLB also stressed that it’ll increase the batting average on balls in play. They cited that last year, the average was .290, that’s seven points lower than in 2012.
It does raise some interesting gameplay restrictions. The infielders cannot switch sides. If the shortstop is the best defender on the defensive team, he can’t just switch with a second baseman if the batter is anticipated to hit closer to Second base.
Rule Three: Gonna need a BIGGER BASE
A revolution in baseball is coming! Well ish… While Home base will stay its original size, the First, Second and Third bases will increase in size from 15 inches to 18, a whole three inches of difference.
So, this is being introduced to improve safety mostly. It’s gives runners and fielders more room and thus less chance of colliding during plays.
However, it also may offer runners a very slight advantage with a smaller distance to travel between bases. It might be negligible but in the highly competitive Major league, every little advantage must be exploited.
When this was tested out in Minor Leagues, the number of injuries reduced. There were 453 injuries reported with old bases but when the new ones were introduced in 2022, this fell to 392.
It will of course reduce the distance between the three bases if only fractionally by 4.5 Inches. First and Third bases distance from the home base is also reduced by three inches.
So these new rules will come into effect from Spring Training, which is just over a week from the time of writing (February 7).
That gives teams time to adjust to them before Opening Day of the new season and also to get used to umpires calling fouls.
These rules will be enforced in the Post-season period but will not be used during the World Baseball Classic.
The new rules are based on a body of extensive research asking the fans, players, executives and baseball scouts what ways they can reduce the amount of dead time in games and increase the action.
The changes put forward above, were tested in over 8000 games across the Minor League and Atlantic League before they could introduced to the Major League level.
What did they find?
Implementing the PITCH TIMER rule actually reduced game time by an average of 25 minutes in 2022. In the previous year, games without the PITCH TIMER were reaching just over three hours.
Likewise, stolen base attempts went up from 2.23 to 2.81 and the success rate rose by 10% (68% to 78%).
The SHIFT RESTRICTIONS implemented on defensive shifts saw the batting average increase from .247 to .249. Not huge for now, but promising.
What do you think?
Do you agree with these rule changes for the new season? Is MLB actually making the game better or is expecting too much from teams?