MLB: New Season, New Rules

Joseph Valenzo, Staff writer

As the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) season starts, new rules from spring training are in full effect. These changes come with new ways to play the game, but restraining past normalcy from years before. As always, it will take time for the teams to adapt to these changes, and there will be frustration in relearning the game. Nonetheless, four major changes have been implemented, changing up every aspect of play on the field and when at bat.

Arguably the most important and most discussed change is the implementation of a pitch clock. In previous years, there has been no timer to force batters and pitches to be ready, but now 30 seconds are given between batters to resume play. When the batter is ready, they must be at home plate, and then the clock starts ticking. If they are not ready and in stance to swing by eight seconds left on the clock, an automatic strike is called. Conversely, if the pitcher does not throw the baseball by the end of the entire timer, the batter gets a ball called. After the pitch and when the pitcher gets the ball again, 15 seconds are alloted to throw the ball again, and 20 if there is a runner on base. 

There are some smaller details to this rule, however. The pitch clock starts only when the batter is in the circle around home plate and when the pitcher has the ball. The person at bat can also call a timeout once per at-bat. Both behind home plate and in center field, there are now timers so that both the pitcher and the batter can see how much time they have to be ready. This rule has been implemented to shorten the game time. Due to this rule, the average game time went from three hours and six minutes to two hours and 38 minutes. 

The role of pitcher has a lot of changes that have come with the new season. There are now changes that limit the amount of times a pitcher can disengage from the batter, mostly to throw to a base to stop a steal. There can only be two throws to a base per plate appearance, and after is a balk, or allowed movement of the runner to the next base, if the runner is not out on the throw. If a runner advances during a plate appearance, the limit is reset, with mound visits, injury time-outs, and opposing team time-outs not counting as disengagements. The umpire has the liberty to call a balk if the pitcher does not come to a complete stop in their stretch as they throw the ball.

If you have watched games from previous years, you will look at the infield when a star hitter is at bat, and see all of the infielders shift to one side of the baseball diamond to prevent a big hit. This is what is known as the infield shift, a way to try and counteract powerful hitters from getting on base or getting an RBI. This practice has been called the reason for lower batting averages. New rules have been implemented that have made this practice impossible to do anymore, as all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield. There must now be two infielders on each side of second base when the pitch is delivered. They cannot sprint to the other end of the field after the pitch is delivered, and must stay at their end of second base at all times. All ballparks now must have the same dimensions for the baseball diamond, 95 feet from the front pitching rubber. This rule means the potential for more runners on base, and more high-scoring games. 

The batters and runners on base also have new changes, mainly with the bases on the diamond. All bases excluding home plate must be 18 square inches by 15 square inches. Both first and third bases are now three inches closer to home and 4 ½ inches closer to second. These rules are to encourage the stealing of bases, and make the game more interesting, allowing for more dynamic play from the runners. 

Now that the rules are in full effect, players and fans have stated their opinions on the new rules. Regardless of how you feel about the new rules, it seems they are here to stay. Teams must adapt to these changes if they ever want to make it to the World Series.