MLB Rule Changes Explained: How the changes will affect the 2023 season

MLB rule changes for 2023. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
MLB rule changes for 2023. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports) /

MLB rule changes for 2023 are quite drastic with a pitch clock coming into play along with shift restrictions and larger bases.

After years of testing out potential changes in the minor leagues, MLB decided to change things up in 2023 with some new rules.

Players and fans will have to get used to some major new restrictions that are sure to impact the experience of playing and watching baseball.

So what do fans need to know about the new elements in the MLB rule book?

MLB rule changes for 2023

  • Pitch timer
    • A pitch clock will enforce 30 seconds between batters, 15 seconds between pitches with bases empty and 20 seconds between pitches with runners on.
  • Defensive shift limits
    • A minimum of four players must be on the infield with at least two on either side of second base.
  • Bigger bases
    • First, second and third base have been expanded to 18 inches on each side.

When do the MLB rule changes go into effect?

All three new rules will be implemented during spring training, which will give players time to adjust.

The first spring training games proved that some players will have to figure out the pitch clock especially. Manny Machado started an at-bat 0-1 because he didn’t get into the batter’s box quickly enough, becoming the first player to run afoul of the new rules.

MLB rule changes 2023: Pitch clock explained

While the other rule changes are sure to have an impact, the most noticeable in an immediate sense is definitely the pitch clock. The first spring training games to implement the rule were a full 30 minutes shorter than the average nine-inning game in 2022.

The rule restricts batter changes to 30 seconds. The time in between pitches is 15 seconds with no one on base and 20 seconds with runners on.

There’s more to it than that though. The rule also limits “disengagements,” i.e. pickoff attempts and step-offs. Pitchers are only allowed two disengagements per plate appearance. That limit is reset if any runner advances during the plate appearance. And pitchers can get away with a third pickoff attempt only if it is successful, otherwise they are charged an automatic ball.

Batters who take too long in the batter’s box are given an automatic strike.

This rule was implemented to speed up the pace of play.

MLB rule changes 2023: Shift limits explained

MLB essentially got rid of the shift by requiring teams to have four infielders within the boundary of the infield. At least two of those players have to be on either side of second base.

On top of that, infielders have to remain on their side. Teams can’t swap the shortstop and second baseman.

However, that doesn’t mean teams can’t place an outfielder in the infield. There just can’t be four outfielders.

This rule was implemented to stop teams from overloading one side defensively.

MLB rule changes 2023: Bigger bases explained

In the interest of player safety, MLB decided to increase the size of the infield bases from 15 inches to 18 inches. The idea is to give base runners and infielders more room to avoid contact with each other, theoretically reducing the number of potential injuries from collisions at the bases.

That means the distance between first and second as well as second and third is 4.5 inches shorter. The shorter distance and the new pitch clock rules could encourage more stolen bases.

However, home plate is remaining the same size.

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