The pacing of a baseball game is expected to change drastically in 2023. The theme of the MLB offseason was “timing.” With a 162-game regular season, the impetus was put on rule changes to not only increase the pace of play but try and make the game more exciting. There is now an updated pitch clock, a ban on infield shifts and bigger bases, among other changes.
The purpose of the pitch timer will be to speed up games. When implemented in the minor leagues and spring training this year, the average length of a game was shortened by nearly a half hour. With no runners on, pitchers will have 15 seconds to begin their motion, and this increases to 20 seconds with a runner on base. The hitter has to be in the batter’s box and ready to hit with eight seconds left on the timer. If the pitcher isn't ready, it is an automatic ball, while if the hitter is at fault, it is a strike. We saw a game at the start of spring training end when a hitter was deemed not ready in time in a 3-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
The restrictions on shifts were implemented to cut down on the time it takes for fielders to be positioned, as well as hoping to increase the likelihood of hits. There are only four infielders allowed on the infield dirt. Two must be to the left of second, and two must be to the right. Now, they can be an inch to the left/right, and it still counts, but they can't cross over until after the pitch is released. All four infielders must have both feet within the infield dirt when the pitcher is on the rubber, or an automatic ball is assessed as a penalty.
First, second, and third bases are seeing a size increase. They are going from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. While it doesn’t seem like much, the distance between first and second and second and third is reduced by 4.5 inches. The bigger bases reduced injuries near ases and saw an increase in successful steals.
Pitchers can only step off the rubber twice per batter. It can be a pick-off attempt or a step off, they are counted equally. If they commit a third, it is assessed as a balk. Alternatively, a hitter can only call time once per plate appearance.
There are now stricter limits on when position players can take the mound. It used to be that a team had to be up or down at least six runs for a position player to pitch. Now, you have to be leading by 10 or down by at least 8.