What are MLB’s new rules for 2023? Here’s everything to know

In an effort to speed up the pace of play and make the game more enjoyable for fans, Major League Baseball is instituting this season its most significant set of rules changes since the adoption of the designated hitter.

The new rules impact almost every facet of the game – pitching, hitting, baserunning and fielding. 

With spring training underway and the rules begin being enforced in actual games, USA TODAY takes a look at what the changes are, what they’re trying to accomplish and what challenges they might present.

MLB’s new shift rule

Reason for change: Last season, MLB teams positioned their infielders in an overshift (more than two fielders on one side of second base) on 33.6% of all plate appearances. The strategy was even more pronounced against left-handed batters (55.0%), which frequently resulted in those lefty hitters being thrown out on ground balls to the second baseman playing in short right field. 

With the number of singles per game reaching an all-time low the past three seasons and the overall batting average (.243) at its lowest point since 1968, MLB wanted to see more balls in play turn into hits. Eliminating the overshift is expected to help, while at the same time require more athletic plays by infielders. 

The new rule: 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.

MLB’s pitch clock rule

Reason for change: The average time for a major league game last season was 3 hours, 6 minutes. That was down from the all-time high of 3:11 in 2021, but it still reinforced the perception that today’s MLB games tend to have long stretches of inactivity. 

To speed up the pace of the game, MLB wants to cut down on the number of times pitchers and batters are allowed to stop play. 

The new rule: There is a 30-second timer between batters and a time limit between pitches. After receiving the ball from the catcher or umpire, pitchers are required to begin their motion within 15 seconds with the bases empty or within 20 seconds with runners on base. If they don’t, they’re charged with an automatic ball.

Hitters also share the responsibility to keep the game moving. They must be in the batter’s box and ready for the pitch by the time the clock reaches 8 seconds. If not, they’re charged with an automatic strike. A batter can call time out only once per plate appearance.

MLB’s larger bases, baserunning rules

Reason for change: As the number of home runs has risen in recent years, stolen base attempts have declined as MLB teams tend to play for the big inning rather than a single run. But the anticipation of a stolen base adds extra excitement to the game that MLB would like to see return. 

By making the bases slightly larger, a runner has less distance to cover to make it safely, thereby increasing the percentage of successfully stealing a base. Larger bases also help reduce the odds of injury from a collision between a fielder and a runner.

The new rules: The bases are now 18 inches square (previously 15 inches). That decreases the distance between first, second and third base by 4.5 inches. (Home plate – which stays the same size – to first base is 3 inches shorter.)

In addition, pitchers are limited to a maximum of two pickoff attempts per plate appearance. If a pitcher attempts a third pickoff throw and doesn’t get the runner out, it’s an automatic balk and all runners move up one base.

‘Ghost runners’ in extra innings

The existing rule: While it’s not new in 2023, MLB did say this past offseason it was permanently implementing a provision in use since 2020 that every half inning after the ninth begins with a runner on second base. 

Reason for change: The idea was first instituted in 2020 to cut down on long games and prevent pitchers being overused in the pandemic-shortened season. It added a new layer of strategy and increased scoring considerably in extra innings — with teams and players overwhelmingly expressing their support for keeping it.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY