The MLB approved several rule changes for the 2023 season that are aimed to speed up the pace of play and increase safety in games, according to a Friday release from the league.
The league will introduce clocks that limit time between batters and between pitches, limit defensive shifts and increase the size of bases in next year’s season.
The announcement came after reports that the league has struggled to bring in attendance above pre-pandemic levels. MLB is also seeking to expand its audience through streaming, such as with its deal with Apple TV+.
Rule changes in recent years have been similarly crafted to increase game intrigue, like starting every extra inning with a man on base.
The new rules include a 30-second timer to speed up time between batters. Pitchers will have 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty, but, with runners on base, that time will expand to 20 seconds.
If a pitcher violates the timer, he will be charged an automatic ball. If a batter violates the limit, he will be charged an automatic strike.
The defensive shift rule change is an attempt to increase batting average on balls put in play, particularly from batters who tend to hit mainly to one side of the field. The rule keeps the four infielders within the infield, and prevents them from switching sides. The limit should allow for more offensive action and force defenses to make more athletic plays.
MLB is also increasing the size of bases from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. This gives infielders more distance between themselves and baserunners, in a bid to decrease collisions.
The change also decreases base-to-base distance by 4.5 inches.