MLB adopts pitch clock, shift limits, and bigger rules for 2023

New York (AFP) – Major League Baseball is introducing some of its most extreme rules next season, adopting pitch clock and limiting defensive shifts after completing modern analyzes that have created a slower, less entertaining sport.

The decisions were made on Friday by the 11-player Sports Competition Commission due to the collective opposition of the four players on the panel. Commissioner Rob Manfred pushed for innovations along with a management team that included former Boston and Chicago Caps CEO Theo Epstein, now an MLB consultant.

“The influx of data in our industry hasn’t improved the game from an aesthetic point of view or from an entertainment point of view,” Epstein said. “So in my role now, it’s my responsibility to try to look at the big picture, and think about what’s great for the fans.”

Players supported the third major initiative: Larger bases expected to reduce injuries and lead to more bases stolen due to the reduced 4 1/2″ distance.

Manfred described the rules as an attempt to “recreate the best form of baseball”.

“Number one, the fans want the matches at a better pace,” he said during a press conference. “Two, the fans want more movement and more balls in play. And third, the fans want to see more sports for our great players.”

Union president Tony Clark was notably absent, having been when an agreement was announced in March that ended a 99-day shutdown.

“Players live the game – day in and day out. Rules and regulations on the field affect their preparation, performance, and ultimately the integrity of the game itself,” the league said in a statement. “Major League Baseball has not been willing to meaningfully address the areas of concern raised by the players.”

The pitch clock will be set to 15 seconds with no base runners and 20 seconds with runners – up from the 14/19 tested in Triple-A this season and 14/18 at the lower minor league levels.

There will be a limit to two of what the MLB calls disengagement – takeoff attempts or rubber steps – per board appearance, and a handicap will be called for a third or more unless there is an exit. The disengagement limit, which some players expect will benefit key players, will be reset if the runner progresses.

The catcher must be in the catcher’s chest with nine seconds remaining on the clock, hitting the batter’s chest and focusing on the bowler with eight seconds remaining. The penalty for the offense is a ball called against the bowler and a kick against the hitter.

The batter may ask the referee to time once for each appearance of the board, after which it will only be awarded at the referee’s discretion if the request is made while in the batter’s box.

The clock, which some players have suggested changing in late and close situations, has helped reduce the average nine-game game time in the minor leagues from 3 hours 4 minutes in 2021 to 2:38 this season. The average time for a nine-game match at the major tournaments this year is 3:07, up from 2:46 in 1989 and 2:30 in the mid-1950s.

“It reminded me of the game I grew up watching in the ’70s and ’80s,” said former soccer player Raul Ibanez, now an MLB vice president.

Two intruders will be required to be on either side of the second and all intruders will be within the outer boundary of the field when the pitcher is on the rubber. Players may not change direction unless there is a replacement, MLB executive vice president Morgan Sward said, but five players will still be allowed.

Turnovers have risen from 2,357 hits on balls hit in play in 2011 to 28,130 in 2016 and 59,063 last year, according to Sports Info Solutions. Transformations are on track for 68,000 this season.

“I think fans will cherish the moments when intense defensive shifts are absent when matches are decided not by whether their team’s pitch is laid out by a perfect algorithm, but by whether their team’s second baseman can train to do a sporty dive that plays everything on the Line Epstein said.

The MLB’s seasonal average batting has dropped from .267 in 1997 to .243 this year, with average team run times dropping from 4.77 to 4.33.

“The game has evolved in a way that no one would have chosen if we were sitting 25 years ago charting a course toward a better version of baseball,” Epstein said. “No one was going to ask the fans to wait more than four minutes for the balls to be laid. No one was going to ask for generational lows and stolen bases, triples and doubles.”

It will increase the size of the base to 18 inches squares by 15 – less likely to trample on the first base base.

In addition, each team will be allowed to visit the sixth hill in the ninth inning of next year, if they use five during the first eight rounds.

Until last winter, MLB needed one year’s advance notice to amend on-field rules without union approval, but a shutdown settlement in March created the commission. Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty, Rice pitcher Tyler Glasno, Blue Jays quarterback Wyatt Merryfield and soccer player Austin Slater represented the players on Friday, a group that included Cubs player Ian Hap as a substitute.

“It’s going to be hard for the guys. It’s a shame we didn’t take it more seriously,” said Merrifield. And that’s just what we’ve been trying to avoid.”

Seattle President John Stanton chaired the committee, which included St. Louis CEO Bill DeWitt Jr., San Francisco Chairman Greg Johnson, Colorado CEO Dick Monfort, Toronto CEO Mark Shapiro and Boston President Tom Werner, along with referee Bill Miller.

“It’s hard to get consensus among the group of players to change the game,” Manfred said. “I think at the end of the day what we did here was about giving the fans the kind of game they want to watch.”

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Associated Press sports writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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