There are three rules being introduced in 2023 that will have a noticeable impact on how MLB teams strategize and play the game. After extensive testing in the minor leagues during the 2022 MiLB season, the MLB have decided to adopt three rules that have shown a positive trend in reducing injuries, increasing fan engagement, and encouraging more offense.

After working for the Akron Rubberducks, the AA affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians, last summer, I’ve been able to experience these changes first hand and see the effect that it has on the style of play. Below I’ve listed the three major rule changes and how they will affect play in the 2023 MLB season.

Bigger Bases

The first change made by the MLB was increasing the size of all three bases: first, second, and third base. Although this change may not seem very important, the larger base size has provided positive data when it comes to injury, as there were 13% less injuries around the bases in 2022 minor leagues compared to 2021.

The bases are 3 inches bigger than they were in 2022, now an 18 inch square, and are slightly shorter in height compared to the bases from years prior. This may not seem like a large difference but it decreases the length a batter has to run from 1st base to 2nd base or 2nd base to third base by 4.5 inches, and reduces the length from home plate to 1st base or 3rd base to home plate by 3 inches. The larger bases will not alter the way the game is played on a large scale but will certainly assist in limiting player injuries.

Changes to the Pitch Timer

A very notable rule change being introduced this year in the MLB is a new pitch timer for pitchers and batters. The pitch timer has been shortened considerably to assist in shortening the length of games and keeping audiences engaged. In response to this, the MLB umpires have already demonstrated their strict enforcement of the pitch timer, as we have already seen a number of harsh consequences for violations in Spring Training this year.

The new pitch timer is 15 seconds when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when there is a runner on base, in addition to batters only being allowed one timeout per plate appearance. Another rule that ties into the pitch timer is the number of pickoff attempts a pitcher has. Each pitcher can only attempt two pickoffs per batter, with a third attempted pickoff resulting in a balk and a free base for the runners and the batter.

This rule change will have a major impact on the game-flow in the MLB, as data showed that there was an increase in the number of stolen bases by over a quarter in the minor leagues in 2022. Data has also shown that these rules shortened the average length of game in the minor leagues by roughly 25 minutes. It will be interesting to see if this rule has as large an impact in the MLB as it did in the minor leagues.

Addition of Infield Shifting Restrictions

The third and final rule change being instituted for the 2023 MLB season is restrictions on the shifting of infield players. In the past few decades MLB teams have utilized batting data to move their infield into advantageous defensive positions. The infield shift allowed infielders to be put into positions that limited the number of hits and scoring opportunities for the batters.

After having no restrictions on the shift, the MLB is instituting a number of different restrictions when it comes to the infield shift. The two main restrictions are that there must be two infielders on each side of second base and all four infielders must have both feet on the infield dirt while the pitcher is still on the rubber.

Although this may not seem significant, it will have a huge impact on all 30 MLB teams this upcoming season. After experimentation in the minor leagues in 2022, data shows that there was a rise in batting average and overall offense, which will increase the game’s excitement for audiences and allow infielders to display their skill and athleticism on the defensive side.

This is my favorite rule change being introduced, as I’m excited for the increased offensive production across the MLB. Which rule change are you most excited for, or on the flip side, you are dreading the most?