The MLB’s competition committee introduced several changes Friday in an effort to cut down on game lengths and improve player safety.
The changes included a pitch clock, limits on defensive shifts, and larger bases for 2023. The decision on the time clock was met with unanimous opposition by the panel’s players, though they approved of the larger bases. The panel consists of four active players, six members appointed by the MLB, and one umpire.
“Throughout the extensive testing of recent years, minor league personnel and a wide range of fans — from the most loyal to casual observers — have recognized the collective impact of these changes in making the game even better and more enjoyable,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
The new pitch clock will limit the amount of time a pitcher has to throw the ball. If the bases are filled with players, the pitcher will have 20 seconds to throw the ball, whereas if the bases are empty, the pitcher has 15 seconds. The decision is not new because a similar rule has been in the rule book for years. However, no one enforced it.
Minor league baseball teams installed the pitch clock last year and saw a 26-minute decrease in game time, according to a press release.
Another change that earned approval was a restriction on defensive shifts, which says the defensive team must have a minimum of four players in the infield and at least two infielders on either side of second base. The restrictions are intended to “increase the batting average on balls in play, to allow infielders to better showcase their athleticism and to restore more traditional outcomes on batted balls,” according to the MLB.
Infielders are also not allowed to switch sides, a move that prevents teams from putting their best catchers in the area they expect a ball to land, according to the league.
The final change was the expansion of the bases, which will change from 15 inches to 18. The change will create a 4 1/2-inch reduction in the distance between first and second base and second base and third. The league said the decision to increase the size was for safety reasons.
The new changes will be implemented at spring training in February to help the players acclimate before the next season begins. The MLB is also expanding globally, with the league announcing that the first game of the season will be held in Mexico City next year.