How long is a baseball game in 2023?: Effects of new MLB rule changes

May 12, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
May 12, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The new Major League Baseball rules have significantly shortened the length of a baseball game and changed the routine of players.

Major League Baseball wanted to cut down on how long it takes to play a game. MLB games in 2023 are about a half hour shorter than in 2022.

This season, MLB implemented a pitch clock, limits on disengagements from the mound, bigger bases, and infield shift restrictions. Of these changes, the pitch clock and limits on disengagements most heavily impact the time of a baseball game.

The pitch clock is 15 seconds with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners on. The clock doesn’t just apply to pitchers but batters, as well. The batter has to be in the box with at least eight seconds remaining on the clock. Pitchers are allowed two disengagements from the mound per batter. A disengagement is defined as stepping off the mound or attempting a pickoff. If a runner advances, the disengagement rule resets.

How long are MLB games in 2023?

The average nine inning baseball game in 2023 is two hours and thirty-eight minutes. In 2022, the average game was three hours and three minutes.

There are consequences for pitchers and batters if either is in violation of the rules. Pitchers are charged with an automatic ball and batters are charged with an automatic strike for pitch clock violations. A pitcher is charged a balk for violating the disengagement rule.

One frustration of the rule is that certain special moments in the game call for more time, and this now needs to be planned in order to avoid a violation. MLB requires a team to submit a request 24 hours in advance if they expect fans to give a standing ovation for a player. Earlier this season, Cody Bellinger was a victim of this scenario. The former Dodger returned to Los Angeles for the first time in a Chicago Cubs uniform and received a standing ovation from the crowd when he came up to the plate. Bellinger was charged with a pitch clock violation. Nice moment ruined.

In another instance, Teoscar Hernandez was given a standing ovation by Blue Jays fans in his first return to Toronto since becoming a Seattle Mariner. No pitch clock violation was called because a request was submitted in advance.

Are pitchers at more of a disadvantage than hitters and runners?

Baseball has been criticized as a game that takes too long. MLB games are faster this year, which perhaps draws fans in, but are the changes hurting the players, particularly the pitchers?

The MLB rule changes have required pitchers to adjust how quickly they’re pitching to adhere to a certain pace. They also need to remember they’re only allowed to throw over to a base twice per at-bat. Pitchers used to constantly check the runner at first, which slowed down the game, but it also allowed them to keep a close eye on runners.

The disengagement portion of the rule allows runners to feel more confident in attempting to steal bases. If a pitcher has already thrown over twice, the runner knows the pitcher can’t check on them again unless they advance. This increases the pressure that pitchers feel.

Earlier this month, ESPN asked MLB players their favorite part about the rule changes. San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell responded, “None that I can think of.” Snell is frustrated with the increase in stolen bases. He said, “If you pick twice, they’re getting crazy jumps and leads. Stolen bases are a joke.” His frustration is understandable.

New York Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka feels similarly about the pickoff rule and believes it’s unfair to catchers, as well. He told ESPN that the rule hangs catchers out to dry because there’s not much more they can do other than make sure the pitchers are quick to the plate and be strategic about throws.

Chicago White Sox shortstop Elvis Andrus countered that hitters are negatively impacted by the pitch clock, as well. He expressed that he doesn’t want to be rushed during an at-bat. Snell acknowledged that hitters are rushed, too.

Many of the players seem to be coming around to the changes, though. Higashioka was unsure about the pitch clock at first. “Now I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me,” he said. He thought the game would feel rushed and that there would be less time for processing, but he’s gotten used to the changes. Players have learned the rules at this point.

There are growing pains for players with the MLB rule changes, but over time, the new normal will feel more comfortable for them. Shorter baseball games are here to stay.

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