New rule changes in the sport of baseball have transformed fundamental aspects of the over 200-year-old sport.
The most notable of these changes is the pitch clock which has been implemented in both college and professional baseball.
In college baseball, pitchers now have 20 seconds to deliver a pitch with the hitter having to be ready at or before 10 seconds. As for the MLB, pitchers have 15 seconds with no one on base and 20 seconds with people on base. Hitters will need to be ready within 8 seconds.
These rule changes hope to accelerate the pace of play to avoid 4-plus hour games and make it more fan-friendly.
Nathan Kwan, a senior pitcher, spoke on the adjustments needed in response to the 20-second clock.
“It changes a lot. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you go your whole life without having to think about a timer on every pitch, it definitely is a huge adjustment,” Kwan said. “Eventually, it will become second nature, but for now, it’s something that will take some time.”
So far in the 2023 MLB regular season, the pitch clock has taken 26 minutes off of each game, with the average game lasting two hours and 30 minutes opposed to just over three hours last season.
As for infractions, MLB games average less than one infraction per game, with the number expected to go down even more as players become more used to being on a timer.
“In the long run, I think it will be good for the game,” Kwan said. “Speeding up the pace of play is good for fans watching, but also, once players get comfortable, it will be good for the guys on the field as well.”
The MLB also enlarged the bases for the 2023 season. They now sit at 18 square inches, up from the original 15. Primarily installed to decrease player collisions, bigger bases may have made stealing bags easier than ever before.
Increasing the bases by .75 of an inch on each since has put runners that much closer to second base. With the pitch clock making it difficult to hold runners, many players are taking advantage.
Within the season’s first 50 games, the MLB saw 70 successful steals, which is more than double last year’s rate, and out of the first 241 stolen base attempts in 2023, 196 were successful for an 81% success rate.
Another major change for the professional game is the banning of the shift. The new rule makes it so a team must have two infielders on each side of second base instead of allowing all infielders to start on the outfield grass.
This is to avoid an over-shift where teams would put three infielders on one side of the field, especially against lefties who tend to pull the ball towards first base. This aims to create more base hits and take the game back to its roots when this over-shift was not done consistently.
The MLB hopes these rule changes will culminate into a more intriguing product for fans. So far, two weeks into the 2023 regular season, games are shorter than ever and stolen bases are at an all-time high, much to the enjoyment of both fans and MLB executives.