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FutureStarrMLB's New Rules Impacting Spring Training
At the start of spring training, several new rules including a pitch timer, defensive shift restrictions and larger bases will take effect. These measures aim to accelerate play and boost the number of exciting games.
These modifications are supported by results from minor league experimentation and fan surveys. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says the modifications are essential to keep the game fast-paced and exciting.
The pitch timer is the most significant of MLB's new rules impacting spring training. It aims to improve the pace of play, reduce dead time and speed up the game’s pace of action by eliminating two key delays that have been a part of baseball for decades: the catcher’s return throw and the pitcher’s motion.
The clock is positioned behind home plate and beyond the outfield, where pitchers and hitters can easily see it. It will count down from 30 seconds between batters, 15 seconds when no runners are on base and 20 seconds with a runner on. Pitchers will only be allowed to disengage from the mound twice per plate appearance, whether to call a timeout or to try to pick off a baserunner. Any disengagements more than twice will result in a balk, which must be recorded to allow the runner to advance.
In addition to the pitch timer, MLB introduced defensive shift limits and bigger bases. These three changes helped to reduce game length in the minor leagues by 25 minutes last season, MLB said.
Defensive shift limits require infielders to be positioned entirely inside the boundaries of infield dirt, and teams must designate which players will be standing on each side of second base. Violations are punished with an automatic ball, and umpires will review video when necessary.
During the first week of spring training, pitchers have been asked about their thoughts on the pitch timer and its implementation. Some are more supportive than others, while some have expressed concerns about how the new rules could affect them.
One of the most common complaints is that the new rules can make a slow-moving pitcher more difficult to deal with. That’s especially true in high-leverage situations.
In an effort to address that, the Mariners have already implemented PitchCom technology, which allows pitchers to receive signals from the catcher instantly and should help mitigate some of the delays caused by the pitch timer. But even if the system works, the new pitch timer still poses some challenges for some of MLB’s best pitchers.
In an effort to expedite play and add more excitement, MLB released a set of rules this week that will apply during spring training next season. These include a pitch clock, defensive positioning restrictions and larger bases.
A pitch clock requires pitchers to begin their deliveries within 20 seconds with runners on base or 15 seconds without them, otherwise an automatic ball will be called. Furthermore, this rule limits a pitcher's ability to disengage from the rubber (step off or throw over) twice during any given plate appearance.
The new rule is intended to reduce the amount of time players wait between pitches, which has contributed to declining batting averages and run scoring. Commissioner Rob Manfred and a newly formed competition committee composed of players hope these modifications will keep the game moving at a quicker clip and make it more thrilling for viewers.
One of the biggest changes under this rule is an outright ban on defensive shifts. Teams have historically been able to creatively position defenders to block line drives, leading to reduced batting averages and low BABIP on groundballs.
Now, these radical alignments will be outlawed in 2023. While the exact rules have yet to be clarified, they appear similar to minor league shift restrictions already in place.
Defensive alignments will still be permitted, but they will be much more limited than in the past. That could mean the difference between a hard-hit line drive hitting into second basemen's gloves in shallow right field and hitting a home run, or getting caught on a flyball.
This new restriction could potentially result in more contact-heavy hitters seeing fewer shifts, such as left-handed pull hitters like Joey Gallo and Kyle Schwarber. According to Statcast data, these batters face a high percentage of their at-bats against shifted infielders.
Many hitters will need to adjust their strategy in order to accommodate the new rules. Some may need to switch positions or alter their diet; some may even have to start stealing more bases.
This year's bases in Major League Baseball will be much larger than last season - instead of 15 inches square, they will measure 18 inches. This could make it easier for runners to swipe a base.
The bases are being made larger to reduce player injuries on the basepaths. In the past, runners have been stepped on or their ankles twisted while trying to slide around a defender on the basepath.
MLB is hoping that making the bases larger will help prevent injuries in spring training games and during stolen base attempts. There are various theories as to how this might impact spring training games and stolen base attempts, but one popular theory suggests it will make it more difficult for players to overslide and be thrown out.
In addition to the size change, a new rule will come into effect that limits how often pitchers can throw over to first base to pick off a runner on stolen bases. This restriction will take effect for the 2023 season; however, there has yet to be an indication as to how it may impact stolen base attempts.
Players will have to adjust to a lot of new rules, but these amendments are designed to add more action and speed up play. Most expect it to take around one month for most players to become fully comfortable with these amendments, but hopefully soon players should start seeing results from these new strategies.
Cora believes the pitch clock will be beneficial and help shorten games. The timer will count down from 15 seconds with no runners on base to 20 seconds when one runner is placed in the box.
The other two changes will take some getting used to, but he believes it will be worth the effort in the end. The pitch clock will help speed up play - something fans eagerly anticipate.
Major League Baseball is about to embark on a monumental shift that will profoundly alter how it plays the game. Commissioner Rob Manfred believes this change is essential for maintaining and advancing the sport's long-term health and prosperity.
MLB is implementing revolutionary on-field rule changes designed to make the game faster, safer and more entertaining. These revisions were made after extensive experimentation in Minor League ballparks and fan surveys; they will be implemented starting with Day One of spring training.
The most notable change will be the pitch clock, which limits batter changes to 30 seconds in nine-inning games. This presents a major time crunch for pitchers as they must transition quickly from their warmup pitches to the next pitch if there are runners on base; additionally, pitchers must return to their mound within 15 seconds after hitting their glove if runners are on base or 20 seconds otherwise.
Another significant rule change will be the removal of the infield shift. This will give hitters more room to reach the plate since teams must have four infielders on the field when the ball is released.
Any player violating the shift rules can be called for an automatic ball. However, there are exceptions to this rule such as when there is no runner on base or if another base runner advances after the shifted hitter has reached first base.
Under the new shift rules, exceptions will be more limited than under the old ones; nonetheless, they'll still have an effect on the game. Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh was shifted against at the fourth highest rate in baseball last season when hitting left-handed, according to Statcast data.
There will be an adjustment period with the new rules, and umpires must remain vigilant in upholding them. Ideally, however, any difficult adjustments should occur early in spring training, with violations such as shifts, pitch-clock violations and balk rules becoming rare by official games starting in late February.