Pitch Clock, Limits On Defensive Changes Coming To MLB – MLB Trade Rumors

Pitch Clock, Limits On Defensive Changes Coming To MLB - MLB Trade Rumors

Major League Baseball announced Friday that the Competition Committee — an 11-person panel made up of six ownership representatives, four players and one umpire — voted to implement three new rule changes for the 2023 season: a pitch clock, a defensive shift restriction and larger bases.

Commissioner Rob Manfred issued the following statement after the vote:

“These steps are designed to improve game tempo, increase performance and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans. During the extensive testing of recent years, Minor League employees and a wide range of fans – from the most loyal to casual observers – have recognized the collective impact of these changes in making the game even better and more enjoyable. We appreciate the participation of the Major League representatives and Umpires in this process.”

The league’s press release describes the changes (and provides context of minor league testing of the pitch clock) as follows:

  • Pitch Timer: Pitch Timer will improve pace of play and reduce dead time. The Pitch Timer Regulations include the following provisions:
    • A thrower must start his move before the timer expires. Pitchers will have up to 15 seconds between throws when the bases are empty and up to 20 seconds between throws with at least one runner on base. Testing in the Minor Leagues involved 14 seconds with the bases empty and 18 seconds (19 seconds in Triple-A) with at least one runner on base.
    • A pitcher may disengage the rubber (timer resets) twice by flat face without penalty.
      • Subsequent disengages result in a fumble, unless an out is recorded on a runner.
      • The disengagement count resets if the runner advances; testing in the Minors had no resumption until the next plate appearance.
    • A batter must be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds remaining. Testing in the Little Leagues included nine seconds remaining.
    • A hitter gets one break per plate appearance.
    • Umpires will have authority to provide additional time if warranted by special circumstances (eg, the catcher is making the last out of the inning and needs additional time to get into a defensive position).
      • Key statistics:
        • Compared to last season, the Pitch Timer reduced the average nine-inning game time by 26 minutes (from 3:04 in 2021 to 2:38 in 2022) while increasing activity on the field.
        • Stolen base attempts per game increased from 2.23 in 2019, with a 68% success rate, to 2.83 in 2022, with a 77% success rate.
        • In its most recent week of play, Minor League Baseball averaged just 0.45 Pitch Timer violations per game.
  • Restrictions on Defensive Changes: A set of restrictions will return the game to a more traditional aesthetic by governing defensive changes, with the goals of encouraging more balls in play, giving players more opportunities to show off their athleticism, and offsetting the growing trend of alignments that feature four full-backs:
    • 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 when the pitcher is on the rubber.
    • No Change Sides: Infielders may not switch sides unless there is a substitution.
      • KEY STATISTICS: Defensive alignments that feature four players in the outfield have increased nearly 6x across MLB since the start of the 2018 season.
  • Larger Bases: With the goal of improving player safety, the size of first, second and third base will increase from the standard 15″ square to 18″ square.
    • Larger bases are expected to have a positive impact on player health and keep Major Leaguers on the field.
      • KEY STATISTICS: Base-related injuries are down 13.5% in the Minor Leagues this season, including declines at every level of the Minors.
    • Larger bases will reduce the distance between first and second and between second and third base by 4.5″, thereby encouraging offensive Clubs to try to steal bases more often and generally be more aggressive on the basepaths.

The committee unanimously voted in favor of the larger bases, although as first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, the players voted against both the pitch clock and the limitation of defensive changes. The MLBPA confirmed as much in a since-released statement that reads:

“Players live the game – day in and day out. On-field rules and regulations affect their preparation, performance, and ultimately, the integrity of the game itself. Player leaders from across the league have been engaged in on-field rules negotiations through the Competition Commission, and they have provided specific and actionable feedback on the changes proposed by the Commissioner. Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern that Players raised, and as a result, Players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against implementing the rules covering defensive changes and the use of a throw timer.”

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