MLB Rules: What Changed?

Major League Baseball (MLB) is one of the oldest sports leagues in the world, and with more than a hundred games to boot, the league can easily modify games to cater to players’ needs and give the fans an even better game. 

Moreover, this season has a few changes — with new rules in base running, clock rule, and shifts rule, to name a few. More importantly, it’s best to be knowledgeable about these changes since these new rules impact the flow of the game, and it doesn’t confuse you as to why these changes were implemented in the first place. Thus, get to know the new rules and anticipate a more enjoyable game this season:

New Shift Rule

MLB teams mostly used an over-shift on all plate appearances, where more than two infielders are found on only one side of the second base. This strategy was more evident against left-handed batters than right ones, especially with a 55.0% chance of the strategy being used. 

Moreover, doing so resulted in ground balls to the second baseman, making hitters, batters, and fans clench their teeth since the ground ball shift ruined the game.

To lessen the existence of ground balls or a batted ball that hit low to the ground, the new shift rule was added. MLB teams must have at least two infielders on the second base, with all four on the infield. 

Moreover, these players may not switch positions unless a substitution is called. Ultimately, taking out chances of an over-shift occurring pushes more athletic plays to occur for infielders and improves the run of an MLB games for worldwide fans.

New Pitch Clock Rule

Watching major league games in 2021 significantly differed from last season, primarily because of the average running time. 

Last season, the average time for major league games was only three hours and six minutes, a decrease since 2021 with a three-hour-and-eleven-minute run. Although these timed differences don’t dictate how good a game was, there was a reinforced perception that the recent games had long stretches of inactivity.

Due to this, the league was set on reducing the number of times the batters and pitchers were allowed to stop playing. A stop play is when a defensive player owns the baseball on either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd base or when a base runner stops their momentum at the base. These instances considerably slowed the game’s pace, so there was a call to action for another rule.

With the pitch clock rule, a 30-second timer is set between batters and a time limit between pitches. Once the ball is received from the umpire, pitchers must begin their play within 15 seconds with the base empty or within 20 seconds when runners are on the base. If the pitchers fail to do so, they’re immediately charged with an automatic ball.

Not only this, but hitters also need to keep the game moving. They should be in the batter’s box, ready for the pitch when the clock reaches 8 seconds. If not, hitters are charged with an automatic strike. 

Larger Bases

Not only are there new rules in the play, but you’ll also see a difference in the layout. As the new season kicks in, you’ll notice larger squared bases 18 inches on each side. This increase is a change from a 15-inch square in the past seasons. Moreover, the distance between each base will be decreased by 4.5. inches make the play more challenging, encouraging teams to steal bases more frequently and aggressively.

The increase in bases will not only affect steals, but it can also impact a decrease in injuries. There’s more room for the base men to avoid getting stepped on or pulling their arms away to avoid a batter. More extensive bases could also help avoid collisions since there’s more space to move.

New Baserunning Rule

The implementation of a new base running rule was to give a more competitive play than the last season. Pitchers are now limited to two pickoff attempts per plate appearance. If the pitcher attempts a third pickoff throw but doesn’t get the runner out, he is immediately called out with an automatic ball, and all the runners will move up one base.

Ghost Runners

A ghost runner gives MLB teams a free runner on the second base at the start of every inning following the ninth one. This opportunity gives a team an extra inning to turn the game around or score a few points. 

Moreover, although this rule is not entirely new in the MLB, support for keeping the rule was intensely expressed since teams and players had a new layer of strategy and scoring possibilities. So you can expect extra plays this season with this new rule!

Final Thoughts

Although these new rules may confuse you, their existence and implementation focus on giving you a better experience regarding strategic plays, competitive steals, and extra innings. These also cater to players’ safety, especially with larger bases. Thus, watch out for the games this season and expect a better game with these new rules.

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