Major League Baseball has adopted its first hour of play, restrictions on defensive shifts and bigger rules for next season in an effort to shorten matches and increase attacking in a sport bound by tradition.
The decision on the clock restrictions and change was made by the 11-man Sports Competition Commission on Friday due to unanimous opposition from the team’s players, who agreed to the larger rules. The changes have long been pushed by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in an effort to combat the increase in dead time over four decades and the throttling of crime in the age of analytics.
Manfred said in a statement.
Until last winter, MLB required one year’s notice to make changes to the rules on the field without the players’ union approval. In the March closing settlement, the federation agreed to form the committee, comprising six representatives from management, four players and one referee.
“Players live the game day in and day out. The rules and regulations on the field affect their preparation, performance, and ultimately the integrity of the game itself,” the federation said in a statement. “Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern raised by the players.”
The pitch clock will be set to 15 seconds with no base runners and 20 seconds with runners – up from the 14/19 tested in Triple-A this season and 14/18 at the lower minor league levels.
There will be a limit to two of what the MLB calls disengagement – takeoff attempts or rubber steps – per board appearance, and a handicap will be called for a third or more unless there is an exit. The disengagement limit will be reset if the runner progresses.
The catcher will be required to be in the catcher’s box with nine seconds remaining on the clock and hit the batter’s chest and focus on the bowler with eight seconds remaining. The penalty for the offense is a ball called against the bowler and a kick against the hitter.
The batter may ask the referee to time once for each appearance of the board, after which it will only be awarded at the referee’s discretion if the request is made while in the batter’s box.
The clock has helped reduce the average time for a nine-game match in the minor leagues from 3 hours 4 minutes in 2021 to 2:38 this season. The average time for a nine-game match at this year’s major tournaments is 3:06; It was 2:46 in 1989, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The shift limit requires two offenders to be on either side of the second and all offenders to be within the outer boundary of the field when the bowler is on the rubber, and the attackers may not switch sides unless there is a substitution.
The use of shifts has mushroomed in the past decade, from 2,357 ball hits in play in 2011 to 28,130 in 2016 and 59,063 last year, according to Sports Info Solutions. Transformations are on track for 68,000 this season.
Bases will be increased in size to 18 inches squares from 15, enhancing safety – first base men are unlikely to interfere – but also boosting bases loot and attack with a 4.5 inch drop in the distance between first, second, and third.
Committee members include St. Louis CEO Bill DeWitt Jr., San Francisco Chairman Greg Johnson, Colorado CEO Dick Monfort, Toronto CEO Mark Shapiro, Seattle Chairman John Stanton, Boston Chairman Tom Werner, and Referee Bill Miller . Players on the board include Cardinals player Jack Flaherty, Rice pitcher Tyler Glasno, Blue Jays player/defender Wyatt Merryfield and soccer player Austin Slater, and Cubs player Ian Haup also featured as a substitute.