MLB Spring Training Underway…And Things Will Look Very Different in 2023

Today is the first day of pitchers and catchers reporting for a number of MLB teams. Some teams don’t report until later in the week but for the most part, the MLB Spring Training season is underway! Soon, Spring Training games will be taking place in Arizona and Florida. And when those games do start taking place…things are going to be a lot different than you may remember baseball being the last time we had an MLB game.

Back in the fall, MLB and the competition committee agreed to some massive changes to various rules in the game in an effort to hasten the game’s pace and increase action. Since that happened back in September, we figured we’d go over those rule changes and whether they’ll make a difference or not in the season to come.

  1. The shift has been removed – For the last several years you’ve probably noticed teams doing something rather bizarre on defense. For certain batters, mostly left handed batters, the defenses will line up with 3 (sometimes even 4) infielders on one side of the field. Teams would do this because those batters tend to pull the ball more often than not and lining up that way gives the defense a better chance to take a hit away from that hitter. Fans have been split on whether this was a good move by the MLB. Some fans are happy because now they’ll be able to see their favorite players get some more hits (potentially). However, those against it are saying things like “teach the players to hit it to the opposite field.” I’ve been torn because I tend to agree with both sides. But since MLB is trying to get the league wide batting average back up after falling to the worst levels since 1968 (.243)…I think this move will help out with that but I also think coaches need to teach their players to hit the ball to opposite field. Hits like those are what change games a lot of times in baseball. But I think in the long run, fans will appreciate this rule change.
  2. MLB will implement a Pitch Clock – Here’s one that I have been praying for for quite some time. In 2023, for the first time in league history, a pitch clock will be added to every MLB stadium. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters will also need to be in the batter’s box with 8 seconds on the pitch clock. If a pitcher has not started “the motion to deliver a pitch” before the expiration of the clock, he will be charged with a ball. If a batter delays entering the box, he will be charged with a strike. I love this rule! It will definitely take some time for the pitchers to adjust to this…especially in the postseason. I remember watching games in the playoffs this past season and it was a good 30-45 seconds between pitches. As a viewer, that is brutal to watch. I’ve been a baseball fan since I was a little kid but even to me…we need to keep things moving. Football has a play clock. Basketball has a shot clock (except in most high schools). The major sport that doesn’t have a clock of any kind except a period time clock is hockey. And hockey has so much going on that it is not needed. A pitch clock needed to be added to keep things moving. We live in a society now where people need to be entertained. People don’t want to watch a pitcher throw a pitch, they get the ball back from the catcher, the pitcher steps off the mound, take his glove off, rub up the baseball, put their glove back on, adjust their hat, step back onto the mound, find his spot, get the signal from the catcher, and finally pitch the next pitch. I don’t know why this has been allowed to happen for so long. I know MLB tried to do something several years ago. But now it feels like even the league has had enough and wants to put an end to this madness.
  3. Pickoffs are being limited – Again, this is one that needed to happen a long time ago. Nothing drives a baseball fan more crazy than a pitcher throwing over to first on a pickoff attempt 3 times in a row without throwing a pitch. Pitchers are allowed two disengagements per plate appearance without penalty. This will bring a little bit more strategy into the game. For the pitcher it’s more of a “which count would be a good one to catch the runner off guard with?” Maybe one plate appearance he throws over on an 0-1 count then he waits till a 2-2 count to throw over again. Then for the runner it’ll keep them on their toes because you know those throw overs are limited so you never know when the pitcher could make that pickoff attempt. However, this could lead to more steals which could lead to more hit and runs which ultimately could end up with more runs on the board.
  4. Bigger Bases – This one seems pretty silly to be honest. MLB increased the size of the bases from 15 inches per side to 18 inches per side. Major League Baseball says this is in an attempt to limit injuries. If you ask me, I think this could increase injuries, particularly hand injuries. Players sliding into the bases hands first will hit that base earlier than they’re accustomed to and it could end up in more jams and possibly sprains or broken fingers. Maybe I’m just overthinking it. I suppose we’ll see. MLB did say injuries were reduced around the bag after the increase in the size of the bases was instituted in the minors.
  5. Limits on position players pitching – The previous rule allowed them to use one when up or down by six or more runs, but now it’s been changed to where the leading team would have to be up by as many as 10 or more while the trailing team would have to be down by eight or more in order to pitch a position player. This won’t mess with too many games because we just don’t see that many blowouts like that. However, I’m not really a fan of this rule change because limiting your ability to use position players in games that are already decided…just puts more stress on your bullpen arms. With how hard players throw out of the bullpen, that could lead to more arm injuries because of the added work of having your bullpen arm pitch in a 7 run game in the 9th inning.

All in all, I think these changes are ultimately going to help MLB achieve what they’re wanting to achieve. The pace of play will definitely get picked up with the pitch clock and less pick off attempts and the offense will most likely be up because people won’t be using the shifts. I hope these changes will lead to better baseball, but we ultimately won’t know till Opening Day on March 30th, 2023.