New rules loom as baseball pushes for better product in 2023

In other words, a lot of the game is spent waiting for something to happen on the field.

Major League Baseball hopes that the end of the series will also mark the end of this era of baseball with the rule changes that will be instituted starting next season.

They include a pitch timer that will require the pitcher to begin their motion within 15 seconds when the bases are empty and up to 20 seconds with at least one runner.

Teams will need to keep two infielders on either side of second base, and all four must have both feet on the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber. Infielders also cannot change sides.

How well the new rules, especially the pitch clock, will work will depend on how quickly the referees enforce them. It’s something the league can control.

They have no control over the amount of pushback from players. The four players on MLB’s 11-person competition committee actively refined the new metrics, but ultimately voted against the clock and shift rules.

“I’m always concerned that when we go through a period of change it’s going to be difficult for the players,” commissioner Rob Manfred said on Sirius XM radio last week. “I think one of the things I took away from the trip around talking to the players is that you understand very well that it’s their livelihood.

“Any change they feel is a threat to the continuity of their career. But hopefully these changes, they can adapt to it fairly quickly and we won’t have any problems with the changes next year. Overall, I think the changes are critically important to our game.”

Average playing time this season was 3 hours and 44 seconds, down from 3:03.44 in 2021. This drop was attributed to the use of Pitch Com devices to transmit signals from catcher to pitcher via a small top -speaker.

A pitch timer should drop the average playing time below three hours for the first time since 2011 (2:56).

It could also reduce the growing advantage of pitchers over batters. Pitchers are trained to take their time between pitches and muster their energy to pitch with the greatest speed possible. Less time between pitches will mean more fatigue, less speed and theoretically less strikeouts and more offense.

A pitching clock could encourage a throwback to when pitching was more of an art than a showdown. In July, new Hall of Famer Jim Kaat said he believed the stopwatch would lead pitchers to work with better pace and find different benefits beyond speed.

For now, MLB will maintain a roster of 26 players with a maximum of 13 pitchers. The league is considering bringing it down to 12, which would reduce the frequency with which teams use relievers.

Baseball is also expected to retain the rule of having a “ghost runner” on second base to start extra innings.

“We haven’t finalized that,” Manfred said. “My strong feeling is that we are going to have him again. The clubs like it, the players like it. And I think overall the fans like it. I think it sort of emphasizes the end of the baseball game in a way that was positively received.

The rule is not used during the playoffs.

“During the regular season, I like it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “In the playoffs, I don’t. I think you play baseball.

Astros manager Dusty Baker is also in favor of the rule.

“It saves your pitching as much as anything,” he said.

Purists railed against the rule. But it calls for strategy.

“It makes you play a different game at home than on the road,” Baker said. “At home you can bunt, you can play for that single point. On the road, a race doesn’t mean much.

“It can mean something. But basically they have the ability to tie it, so you can go back and forth, back and forth. So you’re probably not playing for the big inning, but probably for a twisted number on the road, where at home you get last at bat and that could be the game.

As the teams prepared for Game 6 on Saturday night, the new rules weren’t the focus. But this time next season the game will have a new look.


Peter Abraham can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

About Donnie R. Losey

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