The 2023 MLB season started out with a bang, as the Boston Red Sox faced the Baltimore Orioles. Sox third baseman Rafael Devers became the first player to strike out due to a pitch clock violation. As the clock fell below eight seconds, Devers was still not set in the batters box. An automatic strike was called, bringing the game to an end. A pitch clock, larger bases, and shift restrictions are the new normal for Major League Baseball, after being tested at the minor league level last year.

The new pitch clock gives pitchers fifteen seconds with no players on base, and 20 seconds with players on base, to begin their pitching motion. If they have not started their motion before the clock runs out, the batter will receive an automatic ball, according to the MLB website. The timer will reset if the pitcher attempts to pick off a player on base.

This rule affects batters as well; they must be within the batting box by the eight second mark of the clock or receive an automatic strike. There were 33 clock violations in the first 35 games of the MLB season, according to the New York Times.

Most pitchers have a pitch tempo of under twenty seconds with players on the base, as shown in the chart above. Many pitchers, however, struggle to deliver their pitches in under fifteen seconds with no runners on the base. Sixty percent of MLB teams have an average pitch tempo of over fifteen seconds with no runners on base, based on the data from baseball savant, a statistical website designed to show baseball stats in an easy to view way.

The main purpose of the pitch clock is to shorten the length of games, which have notoriously been over three hours long. After the implementation of this pitch clock in the minor leagues, games were shortened by twenty five minutes. So far in the major leagues, games have been shortened by an average of twenty minutes.

In 2023, the major league average game time is two hours and thirty eight minutes thus far. The last time a game was this short was in 1984, according to data collected by Baseball Reference, a source for baseball history. The length of games increased to over three hours beginning in 2012, and hasn’t fallen below that mark until this year.

The MLB also increased the size of bases from fifteen to eighteen square inches. They did this as a way to reduce collisions when players are attempting to steal a base. This rule, along with the pitch clock, has assisted in increasing the number of stolen bases in the game. It has also decreased the size between bases by four and a half inches. Home plate is the only base that has remained the same size, according to the official MLB website.

The Baltimore Orioles stole the most bases on opening day in their win against the Boston Red Sox, headlined by two stolen bases by Cedric Mullins. They stole five bases with five chances, starting the trend that many other teams have since begun to follow. The Orioles are the only team, however, that stole ten bases across two games in their opening weekend match up.

There were 124 stolen bases within the first week of the season, compared to 61 in the first week of the 2022 season, and this new success rate can likely be attributed to the new rules of the game.

At the minor league level, stolen bases skyrocketed in 2022 after base size was increased, with a 25% increase in stolen bases, according to Bleacher Nation. The number of players who stole 50+ bases in the 2022 season tripled, going from six in 2021 to 18 in 2022.

Shift restrictions have also been introduced this season. A minimum of four players must be on the infield, with one on either side of second base. Before this rule, players could adjust their positioning based on the tendencies of the batter, but new rules keep them in specific positions until the pitch is thrown. If the infielders are not in their correct positions when the play begins, the offensive team can decide on an automatic ball, or accept the result of the play at hand. This rule was put in place to increase the batting average on balls in play, and to allow players on the field to showcase their skills, according to the MLB website.

Fivethirtyeight created a metric for viewing how MLB teams stand as a result of the new rules put in play; MANFRED (Metric for Assessing Negative or Favorable Rule-Effect Dynamics). MANFRED takes into account pitch tempos, shift restrictions, and stolen bases from previous seasons, and projects a ranking for MLB teams based on how they performed across these categories. Many teams that were ranked poorly by Fivethirtyeight when using their Elo ratings, which looks at margin of victory and quality of their opponent, are ranked much higher on the MANFRED scale, which focuses solely on the new rules.

This article was originally published on and is republished with permission.

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