MLB rule changes: pitch clock, larger bases and more
Major League Baseball is introducing a slate of new rules for the 2023 season. Here is a breakdown:
The pitch clock aims to speed the pace of play by eliminating down time between pitches. Players will have 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds with nobody on and 20 seconds if there is a baserunner. The pitcher must start his delivery before the clock expires. After a pitch, the clock starts again when the pitcher has the ball back, the catcher and batter are in the circle around home plate, and play is otherwise ready to resume.
Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds on the clock. Batters can call time once per plate appearance, stopping the countdown.
When a pitcher fails to throw a pitch in time, the penalty is an automatic ball. When a batter isn’t ready in time, it’s an automatic strike.
Clocks will be positioned behind home plate and beyond the outfield, where pitchers and hitters can easily see them.
LIMITS ON PITCHER DISENGAGEMENTS
Pitchers may only disengage from the pitching rubber — either to call timeout or to attempt a pickoff throw — twice per plate appearance. After a pitcher has used his two disengagements, he can still attempt a pickoff, but it better be successful. If the baserunner gets back safely, a balk is assessed and the runner advances.
If a runner advances during a plate appearance, the limit on disengagements is reset. Mound visits, injury timeouts and offensive team timeouts are not considered disengagements.
With a focus on disengagements, umpires may be stricter in calling balks for pitchers who don’t come to a complete stop in their stretch.
INFIELD SHIFT LIMITS
The infield shift — putting three or more infielders on one side of second base, usually with one positioned in the outfield — has been a popular trend over the past decade, and many believe it has contributed to plummeting batting averages.
The new rule states that all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield and two infielders must be on each side of second base when a pitch is delivered. MLB also mandated infield dirt have uniform dimensions in all 30 ballparks — the outfield edge must be 95 feet from the front of the pitching rubber. Players will not be allowed to sprint from one side of second base to the other after the pitch is released, and umpires will be given broad discretion to ensure players are following the spirit of the rule.
New larger bases have been introduced to improve player safety and to modestly encourage more stolen-base attempts. The bases are now 18-square inches, up from 15-square inches. Home plate is now three inches closer to first and third base, while the corner bases are now 4 1/2 inches closer to second base.
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