Q: What new rules will be introduced for the 2023 season?
A: Three new rules will debut in Major League Baseball's 2023 championship season, beginning in Spring Training: the pitch timer, defensive shift restrictions, and larger bases. Details of each rule follows:
1. Pitch Timer
- A pitcher must begin his motion before the expiration of the timer. Pitchers will have up to 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty and up to 20 seconds between pitches with at least one runner on base.
- A pitcher may disengage the rubber (i.e. step off or pickoff attempt) twice per plate appearance without penalty (timer resets). Subsequent disengagements result in a balk, unless an out is recorded on a runner. The disengagement count resets if the runner advances.
- A hitter must be in the batter's box and alert to the pitcher with at least 8 seconds remaining. A hitter receives one timeout per plate appearance.
- If the pitcher is late, he's charged with an automatic ball. If the batter is late, he's charged with an automatic strike.
- There will be a 30-second limit on both mound visits and the time between batters. Umpires will have authority to provide additional time if warranted by special circumstances.
2. Defensive Shift Restrictions
- Lateral Positioning: Two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base when the pitch is released.
- Depth: All four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield (i.e. in the dirt) when the pitcher begins his motion to deliver the pitch.
- No Switching Sides: Infielders may not switch sides unless there is a substitution.
- If the infielders are not aligned properly at the time of the pitch, the offense can chose an automatic ball or the result of the play.
- This rule does not preclude a team from positioning an outfielder in the infield (i.e. five-man infield) or in the shallow outfield grass in certain situations.
3. Larger Bases
- The size of first, second, and third base will increase from the standard 15" square to an 18" square
- Bigger bases will reduce the distance between first and second base and between second and third base by 4.5", encouraging more stolen-base attempts.
Q: Why are these three new rules being implemented?
A: These new rules are being implemented to improve pace of play, increase action on the field, and reduce player injuries, while keeping the game's foundation intact.
Q: Why does pace of play need to be improved?
A: Fan research showed fans across the country—from the most loyal to casual observers—consistently voiced overwhelming support for the goals of a crisper pace of game. Games with a better pace and shorter time will allow more fans—both in the ballpark and watching/listening at home—to see the late innings and endings of games.
Q: What can fans expect when we say there will be more "action on the field"?
A: Based on fan research, fans responded that they like seeing stolen base attempts, triples, doubles, and great defensive plays. Fans also noted that they disliked watching mound visits, walks, pitching changes and pickoff attempts. Simply put, there will be more action on the field and less dead time in between the action.
Q: Why and how did Major League Baseball decide to implement these rules?
A: MLB thoroughly tested a variety of rules in nearly 8,000 Minor League games over the last several years. The vast majority of Minor League personnel found the games under the new rules to be even better and more enjoyable. MLB then adopted these new rules following discussions with the new joint Competition Committee, which included representatives of the Major League players and umpires. The feedback of players and umpires was reflected in the process that led to the implementation of these rules.
Q: How will the new rules improve pace of play and increase action on the field?
A: The pitch timer reduced the average nine-inning Minor League game by 25 minutes (from 3:03 in 2021 to 2:38 in 2022), while increasing action on the field (higher batting average; fewer strikeouts).
Additionally, stolen base attempts per game increased from 2.23 with a 68% success rate in 2019 to 2.81 with a 78% success rate in 2022. A similar increase at the Major League level would return stolen base attempts to the level last seen in the early 2000s.
Defensive shift restrictions will return the game to a more traditional aesthetic and offset the growing trend of alignments that feature four outfielders, which has increased by nearly 600% since 2018. Ultimately, this change aims to put games back in the hands of players and to produce fewer outcomes dictated solely by extreme positioning, leading to more balls in play and giving players more opportunities to showcase their athleticism.
Larger bases are expected to have a positive impact on player health (base-related injuries decreased by 13.5% in the Minor Leagues in 2022) while also providing a slight additional incentive for Clubs to be more aggressive on the base paths.
Q: What do players and managers think of the new rule changes?
- Three-time All-Star Matt Carpenter on the Pitch Timer:
- "Initially, I hated it. 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."
- NL MVP and six-time All-Star Joey Votto on the Pitch Timer:
- "I think it's wonderful. I wish that it had been instituted throughout my career, to be honest with you, because I feel like I've played an additional 50 games, with how long these game have been."
- Three-time World Series Champion Manager Bruce Bochy:
- "I saw it in Las Vegas (Triple-A). I've seen it work, though. It's pretty good. Las Vegas, I don't know if you've even seen a game there, I think it's like 14-10 and the game was under three hours. It was amazing, the pace."
- Cincinnati Reds Manager David Bell:
- "I'm really excited about them. It's going to be a faster game. No shifting is going to lead to more hits. Contact is going to be more important. Baserunning in general is just going to be more of a priority. I think a lot of us enjoy that style of play."
- New York Mets outfielder Mark Canha:
- "I am open to change. I think I can evolve with the times and be open-minded. I think the rules are just great. I think it's really good for baseball."
- Chicago Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner:
- "It's kind of baseball as we knew it growing up in a lot of ways."
- Henry Davis, top overall pick of the 2021 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates:
- "It seemed like it accomplished exactly what MLB wants the game to look like. Outside of playing in the College Word Series or other unique games, it has been the most fun I've ever had playing."