Baseball is a pretty simple game. Hit the ball, throw the ball, catch the ball, run a little. But this year several new rules have been implemented.
Some of the rules had the fan in mind. Most notably the pitch clock. This has on average reduced the length of games by 30 minutes.
For me, it was most noticeable watching a game in person. When I listen to a game on the radio or watch on TV the length doesn’t seem to bother me; perhaps because I’m often doing other things. In person it’s nice for it to move faster. I found myself more engaged.
Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw the ball to the catcher, an additional 5 seconds if someone’s on base.
But hitters are also on the clock. They must be in the batter’s box with 8 seconds left on the pitching clock.
The consequences? A ball is added to the count if a pitcher messes up, a strike is added as a penalty for hitters.
Since 2018, tennis has had a serve clock. Basketball has had a shot clock for more years than I’ve been alive. These types of limits make sense for the sport, the players and the fans.
Baseball bases are now 18 inches instead of 15. I’m sure the players notice the difference.
More steals are possible also because the pitcher cannot throw over to first base every other pitcher. He’s limited to two pick off attempts per plate appearance.
Base stealing is on the rise this year. According to the Washington Post, “Through May 9, MLB teams have attempted stolen bases at a rate of 0.90 per game, a 24 percent jump over last season—a year-over-year increase that roughly mirrors what the minor leagues experienced via the new rules in 2022 and which is the highest since 2012. The success rate of 78.6 percent this year, meanwhile, would rank as the highest in modern baseball history.”
Remember, runners have an advantage now with the bigger bases because there is less field between the two.
Most noticeable as a fan is the ban on extreme defensive shifts. There were times when the infield was all on the right, knowing the hitter had no ability to hit the ball to the left field side.
At first I thought I wouldn’t like this change—that I wanted the defense to do what it wanted to do and that the hitter needed to adjust. Then I thought more about it. Plenty of sports (football and soccer to name two) have distinct lines of where offensive and defensive players can be on the field. Why not for baseball, too?
To me, eliminating the shift makes for a more authentic way of playing baseball. But that’s not really what Major League Baseball was trying to achieve.
According to ESPN, the reason for this change, was because: “The leaguewide batting average was down to .243 in 2022, the lowest since 1968. A lack of singles in particular is at the heart of the decline, with 2022’s rate of 5.33 per team the third lowest in MLB history—and the 2021 and 2020 seasons filling the two spots ahead of it on the all-time list.”
Considering the first recorded baseball game was in 1846, it’s amazing the game is still changing all these many years later.