clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pitch clock and shift restrictions arrive in MLB in 2023

Bigger bases and pitcher movement restrictions also come into play

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
The game is changing. Expect a pitch clock in MLB in 2023.
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

UPDATE: All the provisions voted on passed, although the MLBPA reps on the committee did not support pitch clocks and shift restrictions, meaning those elements of 2023 rule changes are objected to by the actual players and thus are being forced into baseball by ownership.

Here’s what the MLBPA had to say after today’s vote:

Commissioner Rob Manfred, who claims he once went to a baseball game as a boy in 1968, also issued a statement:

When the MLPA and the MLB agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement all the way back in March, there was a lot of buzz about what new rules would be coming in the 2023. The time has come to vote. MLB’s competition committee will be meeting today at noon EST to vote on new rules that include the future of the shift, a pitch clock, and even the size of bases.

Pitch Clock

The proposal is a 15-second pitch clock with nobody on base, and 20 seconds when there are runners on. The clock would start as soon as play is ready to resume, after the catcher or umpire gets the ball back to the pitcher. Additionally, hitters would only be able to call time out once in an at-bat. Mound visits will be limited to 30 seconds.

Why? Pace of the game. The shorter the game, the more likely people are to stay further into the game.

Reaction: When I tell people that baseball is my favorite sport, I am often met with, “Baseball is so boring. The game is so slow.” My response? They would have liked Mark Buehrle. I don’t hate the idea of things moving a little quicker, but I can think of some pitchers who might not like the feeling of being rushed between pitches.

Implementation: The umpire would have a buzzer. This will sound when the clock expires. If a pitch has not been delivered, a ball will be called. If hitters aren’t ready with eight seconds remaining on the clock? Congrats, you get a strike.

The Shift

The proposed rule change would require two infielders to be on either side of second base, and on the infield dirt.

Why? I can only assume it is the age old argument of “that would have been a single if the defense wasn’t shifted.” But seriously, MLB has long said that they want to increase offense during the game, and this is one of the solutions they have drawn up.

Reaction: Forget restricting defensive movements. Instead, learn how to bunt. If the opposing team is going to leave the entire third base side of the field empty, push a bunt for a single. The other solution is to get better at hitting and give defenses a reason to stop shifting. The teams that are shifting are working smarter, not harder — so make them work harder.

Implementation: If the defense finds itself in violation of the new shift rules and a pitch is thrown, the hitting team gets to choose: the outcome of the play or a called ball in the count. Players are allowed to ask umpires if they are lined up correctly, and this new rule will be reviewable. (Seems like this could offset any time saved with pitch clocks.)

Bigger Bases

Bases would be increased to 18 inches squared rather than the current 15.

Why? The hope is to decrease injuries and increase stolen bases.

Reaction: Why not? I see no harm or foul by doing this.

Rubber Disengagements

Pitchers would be limited to stepping off of the rubber only twice per at-bat.

Why? This is another attempt to speed up the game.

Reaction: You can read my comments above about the pitch clock. If the pitch clock becomes a rule and batters are only allowed one time out per plate appearance, it makes sense to restrict pitcher movements as well.

Implementation: If a pitcher steps off of the rubber a third time without a pickoff attempt, a balk will be called. If no runners are on and a third step off the mound is made, it would be considered and count as a mound visit.

The MLB Competition Committee is comprised of four active players, six MLB appointed members, and one umpire. That balance of members means that MLB can essentially implement whatever rules it wishes, and it is no surprise that Jesse Rogers reported for ESPN that the rules are expected to pass.