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  • Ethan Semendinger

MLB Implements 2023 Rule Changes

The Manfred Era continues their constant rules changing each and every year. In this iteration we have a new pitch clock and a shift ban.

 

Tweet:

To read up about the rule changes in their entireties, check out the MLB.com article, here:

https://www.mlb.com/news/mlb-2023-rule-changes-pitch-timer-larger-bases-shifts


As a disclaimer, this is a post about the brief history of each discussed rule change and my opinions on each.

 

The Pitch Clock:

The History:

An idea originated to as a measure to speed up the pace of play in baseball, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) first experimented with using a pitch clock during their 2010 season. They opted to use a 20 second clock for the pitcher (allowing a free ball if violated) and a 5 second countdown limit on the batter for staying in the box (allowing a free strike if violated). That next season, in 2011, the NCAA implemented a pitch clock for all college baseball- though, only when no runners were on base.


The Arizona Fall League was the first professional baseball league to start using a pitch clock in 2014. After a successful implementation, the MLB announced that it would become standard for the 2015 season in Double-A and Triple-A. It then became a consideration for the MLB in 2018 with a first enrollment during the 2019 Spring Training.

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My Thoughts:

Ultimately, I have no problem with a pitch clock. It has been used in the minor leagues for a while now during which they've seen a consistent theme that the game has moved quicker. Which, if that is the end result I am happy with it.


My worry is that the extra 20-30 minutes saved will very quickly be taken over my additional commercials during breaks, more cutaways during broadcasts to advertisements, and other unnecessary elements towards the TV watching experience. Such is the world we live in...

 

The Shift:

The History:

While the shift has become increasingly popular from the late-2000s as a method to squash opposing hitters in the recent years, the history of the shift actually dates back to 100 years ago. Many people like to site the fact that the Cleveland Indians, through manager Lou Boudreau, would shift on Ted Williams to keep him from getting on base with his pull-friendly left-handed swing. However, the first noted implementation of the shift goes all the way back to the 1920's when teams used different infield alignments against Cy Williams.


In recent years the idea of banning the shift has become a popular topic as a way to (hopefully) reduce the continuing "meta" towards three-true-outcome hitting (home run, walk, strikeout).

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My Thoughts:

I was a big proponent against banning the shift, but my Dad opened my eyes to the reality of the situation we currently have in the MLB. As much as I want to preach Wee Willie Keelers famous words, "Hit 'em where they aint," that does not happen anymore. Hits that, historically, would've always found a gap are too often being turned into easy groundballs on the left side of the infield for the second baseman to grab.


So, if the question is whether or not I'd increase the chance to see baseball as it should be played- with the first and third baseman near their bases and the shortstop and second baseman halfway between first/third base and second base- or if I'd like to continue to see nice hits be scooped up, I'm siding with the hitters. I can only hope this change will bring back the days of more .300 AVG hitters, increase the traffic on the base paths, and move hitting philosophy back towards a contact-first approach over the "home run or bust" way that too many teams prioritize today.


The game, as a whole, when 18 players on each side strike out, is boring. Trust me, we'll all be thankful for this change next year.

 

Bigger Bases:

The History:

Since the beginning of baseball there have been many questions about the size of the bases. Going all the way back to 1857, the first written rules of baseball made sure to include that the size of a base should be one square foot and painted white. This wouldn't hold, however. In the 1860's, player Henry Chadwick tried to argue for a base that was 17 inches by 14 inches. Though, history can not indicate if these specifications were ever used.


Starting in 1877, a new rule change had it be that the bases would be 15 inches by 15 inches.


If you want to read more about the history of bases and foul lines, and general baseball history, you can read more about it here: http://www.19cbaseball.com/field-9.html.

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My Thoughts:

Have I given the bigger bases any thought? Of course I have! I have thoughts on everything.


This is a stupid rule change. The bases have been 15 inches by 15 inches for over 150 years. Some things should just be left alone. This is one of those things.


Base-stealing will not become big again just because they cut down on a few inches between the bags. Base-stealing will see an uptick next April and May when players and teams want to test the waters. And then, pitchers and catchers will adapt and the rate of stealing will drop again. Just like what happened in the NFL when they moved the PAT attempt back. Kickers adapted quickly and there has been barely any change now from back then.


At the very least, allow us to see what the (hopeful) increase of baserunners from banning the shift will do to baserunning and stealing for a few years before adding this new change as well. Sometimes the slower approach of implementation is better in the grand scheme of things.


This just seems frivolous.


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