MLB’s New Extra-Innings Rule: A Game Changer or a Flop?

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Photo by Vanessa Booth.

Major League Baseball (MLB) has announced several rule changes that will take effect in the 2023 season. 

Among the changes are alterations to pitch time, shift restrictions and an increase in the size of bases. The league hopes that these changes will help to address some of the criticisms that have been leveled at the sport in recent years, including a perceived lack of action on the field and an overreliance on home runs and strikeouts. 

The new pitch time rules will require pitchers to deliver the ball within a certain timeframe, with the exact time limit to be determined by MLB. This change is intended to speed up the pace of the game, as pitchers often take their time between pitches to reset and strategize. 

By requiring pitchers to work more quickly, the league hopes to create a more dynamic and exciting experience for fans while also encouraging batters to be more aggressive at the plate.

In addition to the pitch time changes, MLB is implementing restrictions on defensive shifts. Traditionally, teams have been able to position their fielders wherever they like on the field, leading to the widespread use of defensive shifts that can make it more difficult for batters to hit the ball. 

Under the new rules, teams will be required to keep two infielders on each side of the second base at all times, with exceptions made for certain bunt and hit-and-run situations. 

This change is intended to encourage more balls to be put in play, as batters will have a better chance of finding gaps in the defense and getting on base. 

Lastly, MLB is increasing the size of bases from 15 to 18 inches square. This change is intended to reduce the number of close plays at first base, which can often result in injuries to players. The larger bases will also give runners a slightly larger target to aim for, potentially making stolen bases and other base-running maneuvers more common. 

These changes have been in the works for some time with MLB officials, players and union representatives working together to develop rules that are beneficial for everyone involved in the sport. 

While some players and fans have expressed concerns about the impact these changes may have on the game, many are hopeful that they will help to make baseball more dynamic and exciting. 

The implementation of these rule changes will undoubtedly have significant effects on the way the game is played and perceived. By speeding up the pace of the game, encouraging more balls to be put in play and reducing the prevalence of strikeouts, MLB hopes to create a more entertaining and engaging experience for fans. 

However, some players and fans have expressed concern that these changes may alter the fundamental nature of the sport, or give certain teams an unfair advantage. 

Despite these concerns, MLB is moving forward with the rule changes and will be closely monitoring their impact over the course of the 2023 season. 

In regards to the effect of the new rule on the rhythm and timing of the game for both batters and pitchers, Branden Murphy, a current first baseman for the UNLV baseball team said, “It’ll take some getting used to for both positions. Over time, it should move more fluently. At the very beginning of the first couple of games, there won’t be a difference, but by the end of the season there should be a five to ten-minute difference.” 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been vocal about the need for change in baseball to improve the pace of play and make the game more appealing to younger audiences. He has supported the new rule changes, arguing that they will increase action on the field and make the game more exciting. 

Manfred has emphasized that these changes are not intended to fundamentally alter the sport but rather to enhance the fan experience and keep baseball relevant in a rapidly changing media landscape. He acknowledged that the new rules may not be universally popular, but he believes that they are necessary for the long-term success of the game. 

He has stated that the league will continue to evaluate the impact of these changes on the game and make adjustments as needed. His vision for the future of baseball is one that balances tradition with innovation, making the game more accessible and engaging for fans of all ages. 

When addressing the topic of the MLB’s statement that the pace of the game has decreased in recent years, Julio Hernandez, a former high school baseball player who currently plays for a small independent team on the weekends said: “I think the game has sped up over the years. The big moments that players have increased, could be caused by the increase in attendance. But as well as the recent change of the extra inning rule. The game has become more popular as a whole as well since the pandemic. If talking about time I think it’s becoming faster based on the natural rate of the players wanting to finish the game, wanting to always get better.” 

With the start of the new season just around the corner, players are adapting to the new rules during spring training games and exhibitions. It remains to be seen how the changes will impact the game, but it is clear that the league is committed to trying new approaches to improve the overall experience for fans and players alike. 

When asked if he believed that fan research was the best way to determine the direction of the sport or if there were other factors that should be considered, Murphy said, “Yes, we should take the fans into consideration but listening to the players who play the sport every day, they are the ones having to adapt to the rules.”

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