MLB Announces Pitch Clocks, Shift Bans And Larger Bases Will Be Implemented in 2023
Pitch clocks, defensive shift restrictions and larger bases are coming to Major League Baseball.
MLB officially announced Friday that three major rules changes will be implemented beginning with the 2023 season. Pitchers will have only 15 seconds between pitches to begin their motion with no one on base and 20 seconds between pitches with runners on base; two infielders must be on either side of second base at all times and every infielder must remain in the dirt; and the size of first, second and third base will be increased from 15 to 18 inches.
The changes were approved in a vote by the Joint Competition Committee made up of six MLB representatives, four player representatives and one umpire representative.
“These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Throughout the extensive testing of recent years, minor league personnel and a wide range of fans – from the most loyal to casual observers – have recognized the collective impact of these changes in making the game even better and more enjoyable. We appreciate the participation of the representatives of the Major League Players and Umpires in this process.”
MLB implemented pitch clocks in every full-season minor league this year. Pitchers had 14 seconds between pitches with no runners on base and 18 seconds with runners on (19 seconds in Triple-A). Pitchers were allowed to step off the rubber twice per plate appearance and would be called for a balk if they stepped off a third time.
Those rules led to a reduction of 26 minutes in the time of an average nine-inning game in the minor leagues this season. The average time of a nine-inning game in 2021, when all but the Low-A California League had no pitch clock, was 3:04. The average time of a nine-inning game in 2022 has been 2:38 through Sept. 8.
MLB also effectively banned shifts with its new rule governing defensive positioning. All four infielders must have both feet in the dirt and two infielders must be on either side of second base when the pitch is delivered. In addition to banning infield shifts, the rule also ensures there will no longer be any four-man outfield alignments.
MLB tested using larger bases at Triple-A last year before expanding their usage to all full-season levels of the minor leagues this season. According to MLB, base-related injuries decreased by 13.5% in the minors this year with the implementation of the larger bases, including declines at every level. The distance between the bases is also reduced by 4 ½ inches, leading to increased stolen base attempts and success rates.