Some sweeping changes will be coming to baseball in 2023. On Friday afternoon, the Major League competition committee voted to implement a pitch clock, add bigger bases and ban defensive shifts.
For years the MLB has been trying to figure out ways to speed up the pace of play. A pitch clock is a good step in the right direction. The clock will be 15-seconds long with nobody on base and 20 seconds with runners on base. Minor league baseball experimented with a pitch clock this season and immediately saw the average game time drop.
The bigger bases will be three inches bigger than this year’s bases. The bases are currently 15 inches square; next season, they will instead be 18 inches square. The increase should decrease collisions and give players more room to operate.
Banning The Shift
Banning the shift is more of a hot-button issue. The new rule will force teams to have two fielders on each side of the second base bag. All five infielders will have to have their feet on the infield dirt. The MLB is trying to increase scoring with this new rule as it has greatly affected dead pull hitters like Joey Gallo. Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports. So it makes sense why most hitters dislike having hard-hit balls absorbed into shifts for outs.
However, this seems to be a contraction of the pitch clock rule and trying to speed up the pace of play. The shift produces outs. Outs make the game go by faster. Banning the shift also takes a significant element of strategy out of the game.
Hitters like Gavin Sheets have found ways to beat the shift and drastically improved their batting average. It is a complex skill to master but can lead to easy hits. It was fun to watch as someone who appreciates the art of hitting. But Rob Manfred is trying to manufacture more action to appeal to the younger fan.
“We’ve tried to address the concerns expressed in a thoughtful way, respectful — always — of the history and traditions of the game, and of player concerns,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a press conference Friday afternoon. “Our guiding star in thinking about changes to the game has always been our fans. ‘What do our fans want to see on the field?’ We’ve conducted thorough and ongoing research with our fans, and certain things are really clear. Number 1, fans want games with better pace. Two, fans want more action, more balls in play. And three, fans want to see more of the athleticism of our great players.
“The rule changes we’re announcing today have been thoroughly tested and refined for years in the Minor Leagues. Each of these rules have been tested in approximately 8,000 Minor League games dating back to last season, which is the equivalent of 3 1/2 complete Major League seasons.”
Victory For The Minor Leagues
These two rule changes were not the MLB’s only announcement on Friday. Rob Manfred also said that the MLB notified the MLBPA that the MLB is prepared to recognize the minor league players union voluntarily.
This is a massive victory for minor league baseball players. For years they have had to live in cramped rooms for low pay. Sometimes up to ten guys would be forced to sleep in the same room. The unlivable conditions match the unlivable wages. A union should help rectify some of these issues.