Major League Baseball will officially adopt rules aimed at speeding up the game, a restriction on defensive shifting, and the implementation of larger bases.
The competition committee made up of members from MLB and the Players Association(MLBPA), approved the rules through a majority vote, but support for these changes was not unanimous. The league has been testing these changes at the Minor League level over the past few years and the feedback from players and umpires has been overwhelmingly positive.
Rob Manfred expressed optimism in a statement, “These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans.”
The pitch clock is a time-based method to increase the pace of play. The rule states that a pitcher must begin his pitching motion prior to the 15-second(or 20 seconds with at least one runner on base) timer expiring.
Pitchers are able to step off the rubber twice per plate appearance, resetting the clock. If a pitcher commits an extra step-off, a balk will be called unless an out is recorded on a runner.
Additionally, batters must be in the box with at least eight seconds remaining and they are to receive one timeout per plate appearance. Umpires will have the authority to provide additional time for certain circumstances.
Ban on defensive shifts for infielders
MLB is restricting the movement and loading up of defenders on one side of the field prior to a pitch being thrown.
That said, the rule states that two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base prior to a pitch being released, and all four infielders must be touching the infield dirt.
Defenders may not switch sides unless there is a substitution, and MLB has said the goal of this is to encourage more balls in play and provide players with more opportunities to make plays amidst the growing trend of loading up one side of the infield based on player tendencies.
The size of the first, second and third base bags are set to increase from the standard 15″ to an 18″ square. The main goal is to improve player safety and perhaps increase the frequency of stolen base attempts.
Base-related injuries decreased by 13.5% throughout the testing process at the Minor League level.
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