In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the several changes to the Major League Baseball (MLB) rules for the 2023 season and how it may serve to increase the popularity of the game.
You can read the full column below.
The 2023 Major League Baseball (“MLB”) season will see drastic changes to three important areas of the game: a pitch timer, shift restrictions, and larger bases. At first glance, one might think how will those three things change the game of baseball? Secondly, one might think that the changes are damaging to a game that has pretty much been played the same by different players since the 1800s.
However, Minor League Baseball (“MiLB”) tested the above changes during the 2022 season and the results are substantial. According to MLB.com, the pitch timer reduced game length by twenty-five minutes along with a 26% increase in stolen base attempts for the 2022 MiLB season. The shift restrictions “increased batting average and decreased strikeouts in [MiLB,] while giving players more opportunity to show off their athleticism.” Lastly, the larger bases “reduced injury events near the bases by more than 13% in the [MiLB] in 2022.” The thought is that over the course of a full MLB season the statistical results will be comparable. Of course, the 2023 Spring Training will provide some analytical insight as well prior to the regular season beginning.
First, here are the rule changes in detail, courtesy of MLB.com.
• 15 seconds with bases empty; 20 seconds with runners on • Hitter gets 1 timeout per plate appearance; must be in batter’s box with 8 seconds left • Pitchers get two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per batter; violations are a balk;
• Two infielders must be positioned on either side of 2B when pitch is released • All four infielders must have both feet within the infield when pitcher is on rubber;
• 1B, 2B and 3B increased from 15” square to 18” square • Distance reduced by 3" from home to 1st and home to 3rd, reduced by 4.5" from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd.
Second, here are how the above changes will change baseball, arguably for the better. For one, MLB games will finish more quickly than NBA and NFL games, thus increasing the potential of making the game more popular in a society and world full of expediency and efficiency. The pitch clock speeds up the game, but also adds an element of strategy and surprise for both batters and pitchers. The downtime between pitches allowed for great conversation by fans and rest for players, but the increased pace will increase the drama and display of athleticism.
Third, the larger bases and therefore the shorter base paths means that more runners will be called safe more frequently, potentially leading to more stolen bases and runs scored. It is likely that pitcher ERAs will increase. It also increases the need for players that can make contact and run fast and catchers that can pop-up quickly from behind the plate to throw out runners on the basepaths. In many ways, the rule changes will increase the need for the employment of players with additional skill sets. It makes the game more athletic and fun to the casual and traditional baseball fan alike. Baseball is a game of inches, so the traditional 90 feet from base to base just got shorter. Imagine all those close calls in the past—history will be rewritten going forward.
Lastly, the shift will allow pull hitters to have more opportunities to get on base and increase their batting averages. Pitchers will have to either throw harder or better yet increase skills of pitching and not just throwing. Strategy in the game becomes all the more important. Regulating the shift also makes the game more fair to the batters. Overall, the 2023 MLB season is going to be a fun experiment—not to mention the runner on second rule continuing to start extra innings.
There has not been this much change to the game since the "Dead-ball era" and when baseball decreased the height of the pitchers mound by five inches in the late 1960s, which increased offensive production in the post Bob Gibson-dominated era of baseball. There are still further changes being experimented with, specifically robot umpires and increasing the distance between the pitchers mound and home plate. Assumably, additional changes will occur only after relative data can be extrapolated from the 2023 season showing a need for changes. It is also possible that the current changes take the offensive side of the game too far. Much is to be seen this season that may determine the games future.
About Jeremy M. Evans:
Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.
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