Column: MLB rule changes and what to expect

New Phillies reliever Craig Kimbrel throws during workouts in Clearwater, Florida.

After last year’s season ended with the Houston Astros winning the World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies, Major League Baseball is returning this spring with a few changes.

With both organizations making it to the World Series, Houston knocked out the Phillies in six games, beating them 4–2 out of a seven-game series. This highly anticipated game will see the best of the best fight for the World Series title.

With 30 MLB teams waiting to kick off the 2023 season, this year’s opening day will be on March 30. At the end of last season MLB made a few rule changes. The competition committee this past October implemented a pitch timer, restrictions on defensive shifts and larger bases. These three main rule changes are designed to help improve the game’s play pace and increase the action of play on the field.

These three changes were tested throughout 8,000 Minor League games and the independent Atlantic League before the MLB implemented these rules and regulations.

Pitch timer

There is a 15-second timer for pitchers to get the ball off their fingers. If there is at least one runner on base, the timer will gain five more seconds to give the pitcher 20 seconds to release the ball. The complication with this is when the batter rotation comes into play. There will also be a 30-second timer for the pitchers between each batter rotation. Each pitcher will be permitted to step off the rubber plate at least twice per plate appearance without receiving a penalty. As for the batter, a hitter must be in the batter’s box with at least eight seconds remaining and they will receive at least one timeout per bat.

Shift restrictions

When the pitch is released, two infielders must be positioned on each side of the second base. All four infielders need to have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield before the pitcher releases the ball.

The defense can only be switched if there is a substitution. The MLB stated that the goal of the new shift change is to encourage more balls in play and give players more opportunities to showcase their athleticism, and offset the trend of alignments featuring outfielders.

Some MLB players and organizations could see this rule change as a problem for the sport. Previously, MLB teams could shift their infielders depending on who was hitting the ball on the opposite end. Now, MLB teams must rely on their infielder’s athleticism to make the play.

Larger bases

The initial size of the first, second and third bases is increasing from the standard 15” square to an 18” square. This boosts the hope of increasing player safety, and it encourages teams to steal the base more often. A bigger base gives the base runner three more inches to get to the bag before the opposing player beats them to it.

These rule changes will change the game of baseball as we see it now. With football and basketball, you see the athleticism of their players. These rule changes will help baseball become a more athletic sport.