Understanding MLB’s new rules

Baseball will be faster and more exciting in 2023

Image by: Amna Rafiq
Big changes are happening in MLB.

Baseball is back, but not quite how you might remember it. 

The 2023 MLB season is underway, bringing with it the introduction of several rule changes meant to speed up the game and increase excitement. 

Only time will tell whether these changes prove good or bad for the sport as a whole, but the rollercoaster ride from April to October should be shorter and perhaps more eventful than in past seasons. 

The pitch timer is the notable new addition for the 2023 season. Now, pitchers are limited to fifteen seconds of dead time between pitches and 20 seconds with runners on base. 

Violations have consequences. When a pitcher violates the timer by not starting to throw within the allotted time, they will be punished with an automatic ‘ball’ called by the umpire. When a batter violates the timer by not getting in the batter’s box quickly enough, they will be punished with an automatic ‘strike’ called against them. 

For those in favour of a faster game, the pitch timer is already proving effective: ten of the 14 Opening Day games were completed in less than three hours. There were 14 violations of the pitch clock across those games, three of which came in the Orioles-Red Sox game. 

However, the pitch timer is not the only change Major League Baseball has implemented for the 2023 season. They’ve also introduced restrictions on defensive shifting. 

Defensive shifting—the act of moving extra defenders to one side of the diamond—had become quite common in recent years as savvy teams have looked to gain a statistical advantage over hitters prone to hitting the ball to the same places. Unfortunately, hitters have failed to adjust, and league-wide offence and batting averages have plummeted as a result. 

The new shifting rules are better described as limitations than an outright ban. Infielders are still allowed to position themselves wherever so long as they stay on their designed side of second base as per traditional understanding. For example, the shortstop must stay positioned on the left side of second base. Four outfielder alignments are also now prohibited. 

Fan reactions to these limitations have been appropriately mixed. Many have argued it’s wrong to punish teams for being smart with their defensive alignments, but most can agree more hits are needed to generate excitement and attract new fans. 

Lastly, largening bases from 15 to 18 inches square is meant to incentivize more stolen base attempts as it produces a four-and-a-half-inch reduction in distance between the bases. Bigger bases are also thought to help minimize instances of over-sliding. 

Stolen bases, once a key element of the game, have been on the decline over the last decade with dominant pitching and power hitting making teams more risk averse. The margins for error have become far too thin to gamble with baserunners in recent years. 

Ultimately, when taken together, the hope is the implementation of these new rules will revitalize a sport that has become increasing slow and analytical. Everyone should benefit from a faster game. Dedicated fans will appreciate the extra half-hour they would have otherwise spent watching. Young fans will appreciate getting to watch more of the game before being forced to go to bed. Even the players, as much as they may grumble, will appreciate the reduced wear and tear on their bodies as they save time, too. 

While we’re unlikely to ever return to the free-swinging days of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, there’s genuine reason to believe baseball is finally changing for the better.


baseball, MLB, prosports, Sports

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