2023 MLB Rule Changes

Baseball’s Newest Controversy


Michael Barravecchio, Staff Writer

Despite the 2023 MLB campaign being only seventeen days old at the time of this account,  the new rule changes have immediately shocked the baseball world. Out went 2022, and in came significant alterations to multiple facets of the sport. The first and most notable change is the pitch clock. MLB initially announced the pitch clock in September 2022. Its debut in 2023 aims to create a quicker pace of play and a more entertaining game. The second is an alteration to the base sizes, now eighteen square inches large, compared to fifteen in previous years. Finally, MLB also introduced limitations on the shift. Effective on March 30th, 2023, all four infielders must have their feet on the infield dirt at the time of the pitch. Also noteworthy is that two infielders must be on each side of second base when the pitcher releases the ball.

MLB did not wish for dramatic changes that would ruin the environment and elements of the game itself, but as the season continues, many fans believe MLB changed the nature of the sport forever. In addition, the restrictions and rules the league set in place have statistically made the 2023 season an outlier compared to others. 

According to the information MLB posted through the games on April 12th of this season, the pace of play has improved, as nine-inning game time is down by 30 minutes. Furthermore, the newly introduced shift restrictions have significantly boosted offensive production, as runs per game have increased by 1.4. The league batting average is also experiencing a jump as it has risen 20 points. Finally, stolen bases have dramatically increased to 1.7 per nine-inning game, the highest since 2012. As expected, the success rate on stolen base attempts also grew to 79.9% from 74% last year.

  As per usual in baseball debates, MLB fans are quick to compliment and criticize modifications to America’s pastime. Fans have already mentioned that the shortened games are abstract and odd. After all, CBS reports that the average game time in MLB hasn’t been below two hours and 40 minutes since 1984. The increase in offensive production and base running success makes fans question the validity of changing the game’s rules. The most critical opinions on MLB’s current strategies are organizations and team owners and not the spectators.  Concession proceeds in stadiums are down due to the faster pace of play, with fans spending less time in the ballpark. An article by Joe Ward highlights neighboring bars’ success near Wrigley Stadium, writing that, albeit the game times are shorter, “that doesn’t mean fans are going home any earlier.” Chicago’s bars have been receiving more business due to MLB’s new rules. Despite the happiness from the small bar and restaurant owners around the stadium, the Cubs administration isn’t happy. According to a bar graph of “MLB Fan Bases With The Most Negative Opinion of The New Rule Changes,” the Cubs are the highest on the list. The chart demonstrates that nearly 15% of their fans and owners have tweeted something negative about the MLB’s new conditions. 

Organizations and fans continue to deliver mixed reviews, with flakes of compliments and criticism everywhere. More traditional fans believe baseball is beautiful because it is a sport without a timer. Although MLB games have no time limit, pitch clock limitations can make the game feel rushed or hurried. Additionally, pitch clock violations can create MLB games with odd or anti-climatic endings when a team does not follow the rules. Traditional fans also believe shifts are part of the game and a competitive strategy, and a limitation to them is unnecessary. Similarly, some believe stolen bases are to be earned with speed and aggression and should not be made easier to accumulate.

Despite the opinions that certain fans and organizations hold, there is no doubt that the game’s pace has increased. The uptick in stolen bases and offensive production also contribute to MLB’s viewership success this season. Many non-baseball fans are beginning to tune into games and admit that the once “boring” sport has become increasingly watchable and entertaining. 

Overall, the baseball community’s mixed feelings should not stop them from appreciating MLB’s effort and ability to create a more entertaining baseball product. Of course, there will always be potential alterations and ranging opinions, but 100% of fans will never agree on a specific accommodation or restriction that the MLB adds. Therefore, fans should likely consider Major League Baseball’s choices morally correct, as their intention to create a faster pace of play without harming the game’s core values seems effective and brings an exciting 2023 campaign.