It is Opening Day.
But major league baseball will look a little different this season.
MLB is implementing a new series of rules aimed at speeding up the pace of play, and creating more opportunities for offense.
Now that spring training is in the rear-view mirror, we can take a look at how the new rules have impacted both the game, and the pace of play. And if the results from spring training are any indication, not only are the new rules having the desired impact, but they are also creating some perhaps unintended benefits.
Here is how the rules changed baseball, at least during spring training.
And how they might impact the game in the future
Games were indeed faster, and shorter
Perhaps the most controversial set of rules implemented for this season involves the pitch timer, and how quickly batters have to get into the batter’s box and be “alert” for the next pitch. When the bases are empty, the pitcher has 15 seconds to begin their delivery to home plate. When there are runners on, the pitcher has 20 seconds to begin their delivery.
In addition, pitchers are allowed only two “disengagements” — either a step-off from the pitching plate or a pick-off attempt — per plate appearance without penalty.
Gone are the days of a pitcher throwing over to first multiple times before delivering a pitch to home plate.
How has this changed baseball? During spring training, games were shorter. Much shorter. The average time of a game during spring training was just 2 hours and 35 minutes, down 26 from the time of an average spring training game a season ago, and down 28 minutes from the time of an average MLB game last season.
Pitch timer violations dropped throughout spring training
Pitch timer violations were a big point of discussion early in spring training. Especially when a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves ended in a tie, thanks to a batter being called out for a violation with the bases loaded, two outs in the ninth inning, and facing a 3-2 count:
— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) February 25, 2023
We have our first wild moment of the pitch clock era.
Red Sox and Braves tie 6-6 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th. pic.twitter.com/kkcWdzDsot
However, as spring training unfolded, both pitchers and hitters alike settled into the new reality, and the violations dropped. According to major league baseball, there were 2.03 violations per game during the first week of spring training, but that number dropped to just 1.48 per game by the end of spring training.
That drop mirrors what baseball saw in the minor leagues a season ago with the same rules. At the start of the MiLB regular season in 2022, 1.73 pitch timer violations were called per game. By the sixth week of the season, that number had dropped to less than one per game.
The restrictions on the shift led to more hits
While the pitch timer has generated the most discussion, another rule that has delivered an immediate impact is the restriction on shifts in the field. Under the new rules, there must be two infielders on each side of second base, on the infield dirt or the infield grass. Infielders can move after the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand and the penalty for a violation is an automatic ball.
However, while players can move after the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, teams cannot put a player “in motion” to try and defeat the rule. So, if a left-handed batter is up, do not expect to see the shortstop start to sprint towards right field, timing their run to coincide with the pitch coming to home plate. That will be treated as a violation.
What has that meant during spring training?
More hits, particularly on ground balls.
According to major league baseball, the batting average around the league on ground balls during spring training was .249, up from .233 during spring training a year ago. Of particular note is the batting average from hitters during spring training on balls that were “pulled,” in other words ground balls hit toward right field by left-handed hitters, and balls hit toward left field by right-handed hitters. On pulled ground balls during spring training, batters posted a batting average of .206, up from .183 a year ago.
That is an increase of .023 from last spring training.
Some managers have warmed to the new rules regarding the shift.
“I’ve sort of turned the corner on the shift [limits],” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “There’s a part of me that says, from a strategic standpoint, ‘Why should we be told how to play defense?’ But the NBA made changes, right? … It will create what fans want. It’s more defensive plays based on not having a bunch of guys in one spot where a guy hits the ball. So I’m all right with the [restrictions on the shift].”
Bigger bases and fewer pickoff attempts led to more action on the basepaths
Another rule change might have seemed more aesthetic at first, which is the increase in the size of bases. But MLB hoped that bigger bases would not only cut down on injuries, particularly on close plays at first base, but would also lead to more stolen base attempts. Especially when you remember the restrictions on how many times a pitcher can disengage from the pitching plate during an at-bat.
If major league baseball was hoping to see more action on the basepaths thanks to the bigger bases, the data from spring training should be a welcome sign.
During spring training in 2022, there were an average of 1.6 stolen base attempts per game, and baserunners were successful on 71% of those attempts.
This season? Games saw an average of 2.3 stolen base attempts during spring training, and runners were successful on 77% of those attempts.
This has led to some teams rethinking their roster, including Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.
“Putting aside pace of game — which obviously is going to be huge — I initially thought the shift would have the biggest impact because it’s going to lead to less efficient positioning of the defenders and therefore more balls getting through for hits,” said Hahn about halfway through the exhibition schedule.
“But I’m starting to think it’s the bigger bases. We aren’t really known as a running team, and I think we’re like 13 for 16 this spring. So teams that aren’t necessarily viewed as having that as a big part of their arsenal, it’s going to be available to them on offense.”
Those numbers mirror what MLB saw with the new rules when there were implemented in the minor leagues. Since using this rule in the Minors, “steal attempts per game have increased from 2.23 in 2019, at a 68% success rate, to 2.83 in 2022, at a 77% success rate.”
Perhaps one of the consequences of the new rules?
Fewer injuries, both in ways contemplated, and ways unforeseen.
While baseball anticipated that some of the changes, in particular the bigger bases, might cut down on injuries due to collisions between fielders and baserunners, the quicker pace of play might also reduce injuries in another way.
By cutting down on the wear-and-tear players experience over the course of a 162-game season.
This is something that Mike Hazen, the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, discussed during spring training.
“The thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is the aggregate hours that players are going to be on their feet,” said Hazen this spring. “It’s far fewer hours, and that will improve — I hope — our injury situation and keep our better players on the field longer.”
Some players are wondering if the sped-up pace of play will lengthen careers.
“I like it,” said Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez. “It’s going to add two more years to my career. I’m not going to catch more games [that are] 4 hours and 15 minutes. Now [they’re around] 2 hours, 20 minutes.”
More baseball, more baseball fans, and maybe even more baseball players
One of the concerns when the new rules were implemented was that by speeding up the game — and cutting out almost 30 minutes of game time in the process — the rules would result in less baseball.
If anything, the opposite has happened.
With these rules, stripping away some of the factors that ground games to a halt, fans are now seeing more action. More hits. More stolen base attempts.
More ... baseball.
“Going up there when you’re hitting, you’ve just got to get up there and go,” said Manny Machado, the third baseman for the San Diego Padres, who added that the adjustments would be worth it. “It’s going to be cool to see more offense, more first-to-third, more runs are probably going to be scored. But then you’re also going to see some pretty good defense.”
“A lot of people think our job, as an industry, is to win games,” said Kansas City Royals infielder Matt Duffy. “No. Our job is to entertain first. If the product as a whole is not entertaining, people aren’t going to come. When a ground ball is smoked at 110 miles an hour, everybody goes, ‘Oooh!’ as it goes through the infield — and then there’s a guy standing right there that they didn’t see, and it’s just another out. That’s not entertaining.”
“It’s like, sorry, pitchers, but fans want to see base runners, they want to see first-to-third, they want to see triples, they want to see home runs,” added Duffy. “They don’t want to see strikeouts and nobody on base and 350 pitches thrown in a game.”
That sentiment was something we found here at SBNation, with a fan survey finding that the majority of fans approved of the new rules.
In addition to seeing more baseball in the short term, there is a belief that the new rules could lead to more baseball, and specifically more baseball players, in the long term. The hope is that shorter games, with more action, will draw a new generation of fans to the game.
“We think about how we first saw the game, where the players were positioned, how fast or slow they were, and this will be the new normal for a whole generation of kids and fans,” said Detroit Tigers Manager A.J. Hinch. “They will think of clocks and the speed of the game, if this enhances it — and hopefully they can get to a few more games if it’s not past their bedtime anymore.”
“With young kids being able to watch a full nine innings now… That’s one way to bring the younger generation into the game, make sure more kids are going to the ballpark,” said Alex Bregman. “I think there’s a bunch of ways we can make a difference in making a lot of kids love baseball and grow up wanting to be big leaguers.”
As someone who coaches middle school baseball, that might be the most important impact of them all.
The 80.5% stolen base efficiency also especially stands out. If runners keep successfully stealing at the same rate they are right now, MLB will see a record-setting season in stolen base efficiency in 2023. It would be the first time that the league stolen-base percentage eclipsed 80%.Does MLB spring training mean anything? ›
So a team's record in the spring means next-to-nothing about their record in the regular season, but maybe that's just because they play so few games in the spring -- not enough for teams' true abilities to emerge.Is there going to be a pitch clock in 2023? ›
MLB rule changes: League to tweak pitch clock, but 15- and 20-second limits remain for 2023 season, per report - CBSSports.com.Are stolen bases up in spring training? ›
Stolen bases increased by a tiny margin, from 1.6 in 2022 to 1.7 in 2023, but the success rate was much higher. In 2022, the MLB averaged a 71% success rate on stolen base attempts in spring training, but that number improved to 76% in Mariners spring training games.How long until pitchers and catchers report 2023? ›
Pitchers and catchers committed to the exhibition series must report on Monday, Feb. 13. Position players playing in the WBC must report on Thursday, Feb. 16.Who will steal the most bases 2023? ›
- Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves. 2022 total: 29.
- Esteury Ruiz, OF, OAK. 2022 total: 1 (17 MLB games)
- Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals. 2022 total: 30.
- Trea Turner, SS, Phillies. 2022 total: 27.
- Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs. 2022 total: 2 (32 MLB games)
Is there any correlation between spring training wins and losses and regular season wins and losses? Many baseball experts have looked at spring training results to see if they are a good indicator of what will happen in the regular season. The bottom line is they are not.Do players try during spring training? ›
Spring training allows new players to try out for roster and position spots, and gives established players practice time prior to competitive play.Has a team gone undefeated in spring training? ›
BOSTON -- What started as a fun, half-joking observation on social media has now become kind of difficult to ignore. The Boston Red Sox are undefeated in spring training.Why is MLB getting rid of the shift? ›
Since 2019, shifts changed how the game looked and how it was played. They made the game aesthetically awkward and less entertaining, which is why a rule change was needed: to rebalance the entertainment value of baseball against its brutish efficiency.
The pitch timer will be the most omnipresent of the new features. Essentially, pitchers will have to begin their deliveries within 15 seconds with the bases empty, and within 20 seconds with at least one runner on board. Time violations will result in an automatic ball.What is the 2023 shift rule? ›
The new MLB shift rule for 2023
At the start of each pitch, teams must have at least two infielders on either side of second base, with all four positioned on the infield dirt. Infielders may not switch positions unless there is a substitution. Follow every game: Latest MLB Scores and Schedules.
Second base is the base most often stolen, as it is farthest from home plate and thus a longer throw from the catcher is required to prevent it. Third base is more difficult to steal, but this is still commonly done.Who has the most stolen bases without being caught? ›
Max Carey established a mark in 1922–23 of 36 consecutive stolen bases without being caught, which stood until it was broken by Davey Lopes with 38 consecutive steals in 1975. Lopes's record was broken by Vince Coleman with 50 consecutive stolen bases in 1988–89.What baseball player stole the most bases? ›
|1||Rickey Henderson *||1,406|
|2||Lou Brock *||938|
|3||Billy Hamilton *||914|
|4||Ty Cobb *||897|
Definition. The members of the coaching staff (including the manager) can make one mound visit per pitcher per inning without needing to remove the pitcher from the game. If the same pitcher is visited twice in one inning, the pitcher must be removed from the contest.Do catchers still give signs to pitchers? ›
Stealing signs in the MLB has been a big part of baseball, but now the league has digitized players experience with a new electronic device. For over a century, catchers have relayed signs in the MLB to pitchers through a sequence of finger movements.Should I throw all year baseball? ›
Dr. James Andrews and many other throwing experts recommend 3-4 months of no throwing with a minimum of 2 months. Most professional baseball players stop throwing during their last game (Sept or Oct) and don't resume throwing until mid to late December.Who is the youngest to 100 stolen bases? ›
HOUSTON (AP) — Mike Trout homered twice to become the youngest player in history with 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Astros 6-3 on Friday night.Who stole more than 100 bases for three consecutive? ›
Four years later, Vince Coleman broke that amazing record when he stole more than one-hundred bases in three consecutive seasons (1985, 1986, 1987)!
The player with the most stolen bases by a catcher in a single season is John Wathan, who collected a record 36 steals in 1982. The former Kansas City Royals catcher was 32 years old during his record-setting season.Is spring training 7 innings? ›
Spring training games are nine innings.Do MLB spring training games count? ›
Do MLB spring training games matter? MLB spring training games do not count towards a player or team's stats, but that doesn't mean they aren't important. While the games do not count in any way, they do offer valuable preseason practice for teams and players.What stats do baseball coaches look at? ›
College coaches focus on SIZE, FOOT SPEED, THROWING VELOCITY, BAT SPEED, and BALL EXIT SPEED - Skill and trave/HS stats are secondary to these. College Ball at all levels is much faster and more powerful in all respects than HS Varsity.Why is it called Grapefruit league? ›
noun Baseball Informal. a series of training games played by major-league teams before the opening of the season (so named because they take place in the citrus-growing South, as in Florida). CAN YOU ANSWER THESE COMMON GRAMMAR DEBATES?Does spring training go to extras? ›
Are there extra innings in MLB spring training? Unlike the regular season, extra innings are not played in spring training. If a winner hasn't been determined after nine innings, the game ends in a tie.What is the attendance at spring training 2023? ›
Recent Cactus League spring training attendance figures in the Valley: 2023 total attendance was 1,631,973 for 226 games, averaging 7,221 per game. 2022 total attendance was 728,626 for 135 games, averaging 5,397 and season was shortened by MLB lockout.What team has never lost a game in a season? ›
Apart from the 1972 Dolphins, three NFL teams have completed undefeated and untied regular seasons: the 1934 Chicago Bears, the 1942 Chicago Bears, and the 2007 New England Patriots.What team never lost in a season? ›
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team that has ever achieved a perfect, undefeated season.Has any team ever lost every game? ›
Four teams in football history have both lost all their games and failed to score a single point in an entire season; all played eight games or less.
The shift is outlawed
That infield alignment is now banned. Instead: The infielders are required to have their feet on the dirt or infield grass, and it must be two on each side of second base. The fun part? After the pitch leaves the pitcher's hand, they can move.
Major League Baseball will effectively ban the shift beginning in 2023 as part of a series of rules changes announced Friday. All four infielders will now be required to have both feet in the infield and two infielders will be required to be on either side of second base when the pitch is delivered.What is a ghost runner in baseball? ›
The league has confirmed that the so-called “ghost runner” rule will remain permanent. This rule, implemented in the 2020 season, gives teams a free runner on second base at the start of every necessary inning following the ninth.Why is 100 pitches the limit? ›
The pitcher wants to keep the pitch count low because of his stamina. Often a starting pitcher will be removed from the game after 100 pitches, regardless of the actual number of innings pitched, as it is reckoned to be the maximum optimal pitch count for a starting pitcher.Can a pitcher pause at the top of his windup? ›
Pitching from the windup position
The pitcher cannot hesitate or stop. If he has runners on base, he cannot throw to a base once he's started his pitching motion. He must deliver the pitch, or it is a balk.
Under NFHS rules, if the starting pitcher does not face one batter, he may play another position (if he can re-enter), but cannot pitch (3-1-1 Pen).Why is MLB making bases bigger? ›
MLB is increasing base sizes in order to promote player safety and make bang-bang plays less dangerous for defenders and runners. There is slightly less distance between bases now, so there may be more stolen bases, but that would not necessarily be a "feature" of the new sizes.Why are bases bigger in MLB? ›
The bigger bases — going from 15- to 18-inch squares — are part of a flurry of changes by Major League Baseball designed to put more action and athleticism back in the game and make it more appealing to a younger generation of potential fans.Did MLB make the bases bigger? ›
Yes, the physical bases. They are now bigger. First, second and third base have been, for well over a century, 15 square inches. The new bases are 18 square inches.What is the hardest base to steal? ›
Most often, we see a player steal second base since it is farthest from home plate and requires a longer throw from the catcher. Stealing third is a little more difficult since the distance from the catcher is less.
"Batters may 'steal' first base on any pitch not caught in flight (the batter can be thrown out if he attempts to run)." Put simply, if there is a wild pitch or passed ball with no runners on base, the batter is allowed to just go for it. He can steal first!Who is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in a World Series? ›
Contents. Without that Monday in October, Don Larsen is an 81-91 pitcher with 14 big league seasons to his credit. But on Oct. 8, 1956, Larsen carved his name into the American sports landscape by pitching the first perfect game in postseason history.Who has the most strikeouts in MLB history? ›
The first 100 MPH pitch in the MLB was Nolan Ryan's 1974 fastball clocked at 100.9 MPH. However, today's pitchers use a variety of methods to measure their pitches' speed, including radar guns and video footage.Who is the MLB King of stolen bases? ›
Rickey Henderson set a new standard for stealing bases, eventually becoming the all-time stolen base king.Who is the all-time leader in stealing home in the MLB? ›
Ty Cobb is MLB's career leader with 54 swipes of home and holds the single-season record with eight (1912). Jackie Robinson famously did it in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series.Who holds the record for most leadoff home runs? ›
- 1) Rickey Henderson: 81.
- 2) Alfonso Soriano: 54.
- 3) Craig Biggio: 53.
- 4) George Springer: 52.
- 5) Ian Kinsler: 48.
- 6) Curtis Granderson: 47.
- 7) Jimmy Rollins: 46.
- 8) Brady Anderson: 44.
The combination of a pitch timer, pickoff limits and bigger bases has driven an increase in stolen bases in the Minor Leagues. From 2019 to 2022, when all three changes were implemented across the Minors, stolen base attempts increased from 2.23 per game to 2.81 per game, and success increased from 68% to 78%.Which MLB team has the most stolen bases in a year? ›
Louis Browns have stolen the most bases by a team in a season, with 581 steals in 1887.
Through nearly four weeks of the season, an average of 1.4 bases are stolen each game, a 56% increase over the 0.9 steals per game in 2021 and 2022. Perhaps most notably, the success rate of 81.9% is the best since caught-stealings were designated an official statistic in 1951, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.What is the most often stolen bases in major league baseball? ›
Rickey Henderson holds the MLB career stolen base record with 1,406.Who has the most stolen bases without being caught to start a career? ›
ITHACA, N.Y. – On Saturday evening, April 10, former Ithaca College baseball All-American Tim Locastro '14 made Major League Baseball history with the Arizona Diamondbacks as he stole his 28th consecutive base without being caught to begin a career. According to the MLB, it was a record that has stood since 1951.What active player has the most stolen bases? ›
|Rank||Player (yrs, age)||Stolen Bases|
|1.||Elvis Andrus (15, 34)||337|
|2.||Billy Hamilton (10, 32)||324|
|3.||Starling Marte (12, 34)||319|
|4.||Jose Altuve (12, 33)||279|
Latham retired in 1899, but became the first full-time base coach in baseball history after that. As a coach, he played his final game for the New York Giants in 1909. He holds the record for being the oldest player to steal a base.Who is the all time stolen base leader? ›
|Rank||Player (yrs, age)||Stolen Bases|
|1.||Rickey Henderson+ (25)||1406|
|2.||Lou Brock+ (19)||938|
|3.||Billy Hamilton+ (14)||914|
|4.||Ty Cobb+ (24)||897|
Baseball players may “steal” a base by touching the next base before the fielders can tag them out. Second base, third base, and home plate may be stolen during any live ball situation. Players may attempt to steal first base following a wild pitch or passed pitch on the fourth ball thrown by the pitcher.Has anyone led MLB in home runs and stolen bases? ›
The only player to lead the Majors in both home runs and steals was Cobb in 1909. Tatis entered play Sunday trailing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. by one homer and Whit Merrifield by four steals for that distinction.Who has the best base stealing percentage? ›
Career Leaders & Records for SB %
|Player (yrs, age)||Byron Buxton (9, 29)|
|Stolen Base Attempts||87|
Henderson's all-time record for stolen bases is very likely one that will never be broken because of not only the amount of bases he grabbed during his 14 years with the Oakland A's, five seasons with the New York Yankees, three seasons with the San Diego Padres, two years with the New York Mets, and one other season ( ...
The main reason for the continuing decline in stolen bases, as well as the count not being a reliable indicator of team success, is that despite being exciting to watch, the risk versus reward of base stealing is not fantastic.