2023 Major League baseball is almost back. Pitchers and catchers are reporting, and we are inching closer to action. There have been numerous changes this season that will have major implications on the way the game is played.
The first major rule change is the pitch clock. Major league baseball has implemented a pitch clock to speed the game up. We are all familiar with the marathon Yankee and Red Sox games. MLB is trying to bring down the timing of games to not lose fans. From the moment the pitcher gets the ball, there will be a 15-second clock that will start running with the bases empty. A 20-second timer will be implemented with runners on base.
If a pitcher fails to throw in this time, they will be charged an automatic ball. If a batter is not in the box by the eight-second mark, they are charged with a strike.
Mound visits are limited to 30 seconds, and the timer resets if the pitcher attempts a pickoff.
The catch to the pickoff rule is pitchers are now restricted to two pickoff attempts or step-offs per plate appearance, but resets if the runners advance at all. If a third pickoff attempt is made, the attempt must be successful, or the runner is awarded the next bag if they’re safe. This should increase stolen base attempts, as runners will know a 3rd pickoff is a risky attempt for pitchers.
Aces Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander are among the pitchers known to be very slow to the plate and may be affected by a change in routine.
Larger bases are now introduced to the game. The previous bases used were 15x15. The new bases are 18x18. With the addition of the restriction to pickoff attempts, the increased bags should drastically increase stolen bases, and that is the hope of MLB. As per Yahoo Sports, quoting Baseball Almanac, in 2022 we saw 2,487 stolen bases, up from 2,214 in 2021. However, in 2011, 3,279 bases were stolen. Numerous reasons play factors play into this. The shift and cold weather. With the shift ban, we will see more runners getting on base.
The shift is now banned. Players who constantly hit into the shift will now see their averages and on-base percentages boost. Shifts were designed to turn hard-hit balls into outs. Seeing the shortstop covering over the top of second base, and the entire third base line empty has grown to be a normal thing. Hitters such as Corey Seager and Joey Gallo will benefit greatly from this. The rules state 2 infielders must be on either side of second base at all times and need both of their feet on dirt at the pitch release.
A balk is when a pitcher flinches or drops the ball during a warmup. MLB plans to enforce balks more in 2023. Why is this? A pitcher is only allowed two disengagements from the mound with runners on base. If they disengage a third time and it does not result in an out, then it will be ruled a balk, and the runners will advance.
PARK DISTANCE CHANGES
The Detroit Tigers have made changes to Comerica Park. The center field wall will be moved ten feet to now 412 feet and have lowered the height of the wall from 8.5 feet to 7 feet. The big drastic change is the right-center field wall will be lowered from 13 feet to 7 feet which is a drastic difference. Finally, the right field wall will be lowered from 8.5 feet to 7 feet. The left field corner dimensions saw a slight change from 345 feet to 342 feet. I would expect more home runs to come out of this park which is the exact opposite of what Baltimore did in 2022 in left field. Someone that stands out that should benefit is Riley Greene of the Tigers batting lefty. The changes will all but surely increase home run totals across the board.