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Game of Inches: MLB Shows Off New Larger Bases, Pitch Clock

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With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, MLB officials yesterday demonstrated several of this season’s new rule changes, most notably the new bases, which are increasing in size from 15 inches square to 18 inches square (with the new version being likened by one manager to a pizza box). As you can see above, this led to an amusing photo scrum down in Arizona, where the demonstration took place.

Here are some side-by-side views (and you can see more pics here):

Kudos to this Twitter-er, who had a bit of fun with the situation:

As I often say about uniforms, I feel like I’ll need to see how this looks during a game before rendering an aesthetic assessment. In general, though, I’m in favor of anything that leads to more stolen base attempts. But while it’s true that the larger bases will have the effect of shortening the basepaths, they will also shorten the distance for a pickoff throw, because the mound-facing edge of the base will now be closer to the pitcher.

Some additional notes about rule changes with aesthetic implications:

  • Here’s the new pitch clock:
  • Umpires will wear a new device that will vibrate when the pitch clock time expires:
  • The combination of the pitch clock and a new emphasis on enforcing balk rules has reportedly led several pitchers, including Houston’s Luis Garcia, Toronto’s Kevin Gausman, Boston’s Kenley Jansen, and the White Sox’s Mike Clevinger, to change their motions.

Spring training games start next Friday, Feb. 24.

(My thanks to John Muir for pointing me to the photo shown at the top of this page.) 

Comments (101)

    This feels like a half hearted attempt to replicate what cricket and rugby have done with 20/20 and Sevens, respectively. (Maybe more akin to the NHL rule changes on two line passes and the trapezoid.)

    Yes, it’s harder to keep the attention of the audience you’re trying to attract (younger), so making games shorter and more offensively inclined makes sense. But unless you’re willing to change the core of the game (inning length, number of fielders, size of strike zone), I don’t see where this will have anything but a negligible impact of game length.

    I am hoping, though, that fans will get into counting down with the pitch clock — that could be entertaining, especially if a pitcher doesn’t come toward home in time.

    I mean the pitch clock had 26-minute impact on minor league games in 2022, why wouldn’t it in MLB?

    The minor league game has always been faster, a product of lesser pitching talent and hitters not working counts as deeply as those in the majors. There will be savings, but not of the kind to transfer the majors game dramatically.

    The sooner you can get a ball in play, the faster the game goes — it has less to do with each pitch, and more with how quickly each at bat reaches resolution. If you used accelerated counts (starting at 1-1, e.g.), then you would see more meaningful drops in game time.

    It’s not just about the hard numbers of game length though. Perception of time is a very elastic thing. If a three-hour movie is good, you’re glued to the screen in a flow state and lose track of time. If the movie is boring, 90 minutes feels like an eternity.

    I’m optimistic that the pitch clock will reduce total boring down time, especially hitters stepping out the box, pitchers waving off calls, etc. I went to a minors game last year and it was like pitch-pitch-pitch. We’ll see how it works on the major level but I expect it will feel quite different.

    I think the biggest difference between minor league and major league is the time between innings, based on TV commercial times. Whenever you see those earlier games from the 60s and 70 with their 80 minute game times, it’s mainly because there were 30 less seconds between inninings.

    One of Rugby’s other rule changes to speed the game has to do with lineouts. Having watched the Six Nations on Peacock, it so far has shown it to be a good rule. No more loitering around for a couple of minutes to form the lineout.

    100% agreed; and as a referee, anything that allows us to get the stupid “huddle and walk-up to the lineout” out of the game is incredibly welcomed. Waiting for teams to set up a set piece is dull and unnecessary. As the old rugby song goes, “Get in get out, quit effing about, yo ho, yo ho, yo ho.”

    While I’m somewhat of a baseball purist, there’s no denying the game needs to speed up and add more action. So yes, I favor the pitch clock, larger bases and banning the shift. Now about those gawdawful sleeve ads…..

    I feel like I’m in the same boat: My purism extends to remembering when 2:30 was the divide between a short and a long game, and I want that traditional speed of play back. I’m not a fan of the shift ban on exactly those grounds: It seems self-evident to me that encouraging guys who can’t really hit but can either bang for power or strike out to bang more and strike out more will not result in more or faster action on the basepaths. The shift ban should produce more strikeouts and therefore longer at-bats. Yay more strikeouts! says no baseball fan. But we’ll see. I hope to be wrong. Also, pickoff attempts are being sort of limited, which is a good thing for pace of play and encouraging more baserunning action. Pitchers get two “disengagements” per at-bat, and pickoffs count as a disengagement. Third disengagement is a balk, unless the play initiated by a disengagement results in an out or the runner advances. Which will radically transform the risk/reward calculations for pitchers making a second or third pickoff attempt in an at-bat. Third pickoff, you need to be dead certain that you can nail the guy, or else he’ll get a free pass to advance one way or another.

    I still philosophically prefer my solution to reducing pickoffs, which is to award a ball to the batter for a pickoff attempt, but not ball four. Though I can see a good case for the real new rule being more effective than my idea, despite being less of a natural extension of any established ethic of the game. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and I’ll be quite happy to learn that the disengagement rule works to significantly reduce pickoff attempts.

    So, this boat is getting crowded with kindred souls. My position is that until MLB, and -heck- organized baseball can eliminate the three true outcomes it is doomed to obscurity. That said, I don’t have any suggestions on how to eliminate the three true outcomes, so maybe I’m just a fatalist.

    Change the pitch counts from 4 balls and 3 strikes to 3 balls and 2 strikes is the only way to get rid of the 3 true outcomes as the best strategy.

    Got room for one more?
    Shaving off 30 minutes of non-action will mean I get home by 10p on a weeknight from Citizens Bank Park instead of 10.30p. Keeping batters from their 10-step choreographed routine of equipment checks and practice swings and nervous tics after every pitch will be less tiresome.
    To your point about minimizing the 3 true outcomes, I think that all of the rule changes are designed to address that very thing. Eliminating the shift means it will be easier to get a grounder through the infield instead of hoping to slug it over everyone. Limiting pickoff attempts and larger bases should induce more stolen bases, hit-and-runs, and other action to generate movement and contact. Short of returning to 390-foot power alleys and first-generation Astroturf to generate triples, these things should help make the game better to watch. It would be great to get back to the days where 90 pitches was a complete game because hitters put the ball in play but that may be a bridge too far.

    Make ballparks bigger. That’s the answer. Disincentivise the HR or bust approach hitters have right now by making HRs hard to achieve, and an outsized risk to specifically target. Conversely, make the possibility of triples and inside the park jobs more likely with a line drive approach which can exploit the bigger holes in a teams’ defense, and shift greater emphasis onto situational hitting, bad ball hitting and bat control for directional hitting. Above all, make K’s undesirable again as an outcome by increasing the probability of better outcomes from balls in play. Bonus side effect – deemphasise the utility of the shift as targeting launch angle is what leads to pulling ground balls. Level line drives tend to spread better to all fields.

    I don’t disagree with some of your points, but I feel like sayin “guys who can’t really hit” can be relative. There are plenty of players who we look at (IMO rightfully so) as great hitters who likely wouldn’t have had anywhere near the numbers/careers/legacies they did if the extreme shift had been a common tactic during their playing careers.

    “Guys who can’t hit” isn’t even relative, it’s vastly and deliberately unfair. I was exaggerating. There’s a reason the shift is never used against skill hitters and only used against extreme pull hitters. Most batters would see a shift as an invitation to adjust their swing and their pitch selection to hit to the open-side infield. The guys the shift is used against are either unable or unwilling to make that basic adjustment, which is the kind of thing you’d expect a reasonably skilled teenage ballplayer to be able to do. Now, the guys who are vulnerable to the switch _can_ hit, and by and large are among the most runs-productive batters in the game. But they are also players who either have chosen to, or whose talents are limited to, focus exclusively on fly ball pull batting with high-strikeout risk. As a fan, that’s my least favorite kind of batter, and I neither much enjoy nor respect that approach to batting. It’s a get-off-my-lawn mentality for me. Give me a skill hitter who would punish the shift with a slap bunt rather than a pull hitter who lacks the skill or mentality to defeat the most easily defeated defensive maneuver in all of professional sports, and who’s probably going to strike out anyway.

    I don’t really care about the size of the bases, but the pitch clock is stupid. The best way to speed up the game is for umpires to not allow batters to step out of the box after every pitch to adjust their gloves, or cup or whatever. Very simple – step out of the box, it’s a strike! As far as the shift (which I HATE!) goes – teach players to hit against it and it will go away on its own. Can you imagine Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn batting today? They’d both hit .480 every year because they knew how to use the entire field and actually put the ball in play!

    Can you imagine Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn batting today? They’d both hit .480 every year because they knew how to use the entire field and actually put the ball in play!

    Actually, nobody would employ the shift against Boggs or Gwynn, because — as you yourself point out — they hit to all fields. So they’d probably have the same success rate today that they had when they played.

    The new rule requires batters to be in the box with at least 8 seconds left on the pitch clock (otherwise a strike will be assessed), so they are addressing delays by hitters stepping out as well. Time will tell how much it actually cuts down on dead-time in games, but the data from MiLB is promising.

    Size of base doesn’t make pick off attempts any easier. The runner has to be tagged, not simply having the baseman make contact with the base. Pickoffs should be harder now that the runner can slide to a spot on the base that is marginally farther from the pitcher now. Not quite 1.5” farther because of angles, but a longer distance is possible now.

    My understanding is that the push for larger bases has been driven more by a desire to reduce baserunning collisions than to increase steal attempts, though I’m OK with the change on either grounds.

    As for the pitch clock, the thing is that the official rules of baseball have had a pitch clock for decades. It’s just never been strictly enforced before now. About bloody time, On the flip side, umpires are now being ordered to also enforce the existing rules (long established but slightly modified this winter) requiring batters to stay in the box and be ready to receive the pitch. Here’s where I wonder whether there will be visible aesthetic effects: Batters will no longer be able to step out of the box on the assumption that they’ll be awarded an automatic time-out to fiddle with their gloves or helmet or whatever. Will batting glove design or styling change now that batters need their gloves to either fit comfortably for the duration of the at-bat or to be adjustable with smaller, faster motions that can be done without stepping out of the box?

    As an anecdotal example, many curlers in my club wear gloves for sweeping. Baseball batting gloves and golf gloves are pretty common. When folks wear baseball gloves, they seem more likely to fiddle with the Velcro and adjust the fit more often than those who wear golf gloves. And I wear work gloves from the Farm & Fleet because I’m a skinflint and they cost a couple of bucks and last years longer than the much more expensive other-sport gloves. And my cheap work gloves have a smaller Velcro closure tab than batting or golf gloves, and I rarely have to adjust them over the course of an entire two-hour game. Could just be a psychological association with how pro players fiddle with their gloves among those drawn to wearing sports gloves, or there could be some design difference in the gloves themselves.

    “When folks wear baseball gloves, they seem more likely to fiddle with the Velcro and adjust the fit more often than those who wear golf gloves”

    I think this is just a tic (think Nomar Garciaparra and others). I wear Franklin baseball gloves for curling and I never *fiddle* with them (once they’re on, they’re on. I remove the right glove when I’m delivering and return it when I’m finished). I think baseball players who have a “routine” (just as I — and likely you — have once in the hack) will have to adjust that…but I don’t attribute that to the gloves … in either sport.


    I should clarify that my left glove is a fix once, never adjust affair. I also remove my right glove when throwing stones and out it back on (in a hurry) after my second stone. Most curlers deliver the stone with a bare hand on the handle.

    Do you think the concept of “pace of play” is an aesthetic concept? Even if the pitch clock were invisible (which, arguably, it should be), doesn’t a faster game affect our perception of the game, in a way that only tangentially affects the competitive aspect?

    Bernie raises a terrific point that I hadn’t thought of. In many public forums, where speakers have time limits, they don’t face a numerical clock display showing seconds left, but rather a set of lights. Yellow to warn that time is about to expire, red to show that time is over. Something like that would be a more aesthetically pleasing thing for me as a spectator than a pair of digital seconds displays.

    In basketball, obviously there’s a shot clock, but there are other time violations, like 3, 5, 8, and 10 second violations that don’t have visible timers (though, certainly, that would be a lot of timers). I think tennis has been slowly introducing shot clocks to enforce timely serves (the rule is not new, just the visible timers). But those timers aren’t prominently placed for spectators.

    I think the fundamental question should be, how relevant is the clock to the competitive aspect of the game? A basketball shot clock dictates the game action, so it’s prominently displayed. The pitch clock isn’t meant to be a part of competition, it’s just meant to keep things going. Are fans going to start shouting when the pitch clock gets to 2? I hope not. Making it highly visible to spectators adds visual noise that isn’t relevant to the competitive aspects of baseball.

    Agree with this entirely. The timing rules have been in place but they don’t enforce them. Just like they don’t enforce the batter staying in the batter box.

    If they’d just enforce the rules that are in place they wouldn’t fell like they need these changes.

    The pitch clock won’t change much based on when the clock starts and stating the batter has until 8 seconds left to be in the box. So now instead of being able to watch a game it seems we will be sitting around watching a clock, which has always been the beauty of baseball. The clock won’t start until the pitcher has the ball and is on the pitching mound, it’s already been bandied about that pitchers using pitchcom may stand in the grass behind the mound while getting the pitch to then have more time to get set and ready.

    The change in size of the bases is fine and shouldn’t change much as it benefits both the offense and defense.

    The shift rule is stupid. I’m sorry but if lefties are upset that they can’t just sit back and try for home runs that’s not enough for me. The original conceit of the game was the batter against the defense. The game has moved into a battle of the batter against the pitcher. I liked shifting as it was strategy. With the loss of the pitcher hitting and shifts strategy just keeps getting displaced.

    The thing that should really change is to try and incentivize pitchers to not waste pitches and batters to swing at strikes. Only way I’ve been able to figure out to get that done is to change from 4 balls is a walk and 3 strikes is an out to 3 balls is a walk and 2 strikes is an out. Pitchers won’t have many waste pitch opportunities and batters can’t waste strikes. Plus may have a benefit on arms and how deep starters can get into games.

    I get where you’re coming from, but the shift as strategy went to a point that it overwhelmed the actual rules of the game IMO. Take football for example. The entire concept is based around schemes and strategy, but there are still designated spots each position needs to occupy prior to the snap. On the same token, I have no issue with defenders positioning themselves, but they should need to be playing their position. IE, 4 infielders, 2 on each side of second, and 3 outfielders. They can be defensively positioned within those parameters.

    Take football for example. The entire concept is based around schemes and strategy, but there are still designated spots each position needs to occupy prior to the snap.

    Actually, there are no rules in football for defensive positioning. The 11 defensive players can be anywhere they like, as long as they’re on the proper side of the neutral zone.

    I’m not advocating for or against the shift. Just pointing out a flaw in your premise.

    I could have phrased it better than saying “designated spots” as that’s inaccurate wording. What I meant, to use what you said, in football they can do what they please as long as they’re on the “proper side of the neutral zone” much in the same way that I beleive that defensive players in baseball should be allowed to position themselves however WITHIN the confines of their position: IE Outfielders must be on the OF grass or warning track, IFers must be on the dirt, 3B and SS left of second and 2B and 1B to the right of second (from the home plate POV). So, some level of defensive shift, yes. Having more than 3 outfielders to loading up one side of the infield, no.

    This still doesn’t work in the football sense. If the defense wanted all 11 players regardless of position lined up on the line scrimmage they can do that. Heck, they do it on some plays already.

    In baseball the line that is like the line of scrimmage is the foul line so to use your football analogy I’m good with defenders regardless of position (catcher excluded) standing wherever they want in fair territory.

    There is no actual reason to have a shift rule that limits where players can stand in fair territory. So it’s a rule largely due to a select few players that just want to try and bomb home runs and are upset that when they don’t a defender is positioned to get them out.

    It’s an illogical premise that lead to a rule that won’t make the game any better. It also won’t cause any players to try and put the ball in play rather than try for a 3 true outcome.

    Other than the dirt portion of the rule largely the off hand middle infielder will stand near directly behind second base and still gobble up those up the middle grounders against extreme pull hitters.

    By that logic, why have positions in baseball at all? As for the line of scrimmage comparison, I guess it’s coming down to a difference of option as to what that (albeit) translates to in a baseball sense. To me, it’s not equivalent to “anywhere in fair territory” it’s equivalent to player’s position. But I concede, it does become an opinion issue. To me, unraveling the very concept of position so mcc that it doesn’t matter is much more detrimental to the overall game of baseball than a pull-happy getting hits.

    Positions matter in so much as understanding what is primarily asked of that player.

    But let’s take first base for example. The first baseman is not the only player responsible for covering first base and has responsibilities that would force him to cover second base and stand on the mound. This doesn’t mean he should be reassigned as a pitcher or second baseman (although this has happened before, see Anthony Rizzo) but that you understand the general way in which this player is deployed.

    But if you see a 3B moved to shallow RF like Manny Machado has his position designation allows the fan to understand what that move then means for the 2B, SS and LF in their new added responsibilities.

    You have 9 fielders. 1 has to pitch and 1 has got to catch. Past that, other than a first baseman’s glove it kind of doesn’t matter what position you want to call someone but where they line up.

    The elimination of the shift is increasing a trend in baseball of eliminating strategy from the game. Losing the DH has already done that. This is also currently a trend in football. Losing strategy points is in my opinion detrimental to the long term health of the game.

    “The elimination of the shift is increasing a trend in baseball of eliminating strategy from the game.”

    From my POV, it’s less elimination and more mitigation of strategy. Infielders can still guard the lines or play towards the middle, outfielders can play deep/shallow/toward the line/towards center etc. All of that strategy can still be employed on some level while at the same time having two infielders on each side of second and 3 outfielders in the OF, and in-turn not compromising the game which (IMO) is what some of the more extreme shifts do.

    We say it’s the elimination of strategy from the game. That’s not wrong. But it’s also the elimination of a strategy that’s been to the game’s detriment. Defense shifts have become so good that all but the long ball has been disincentivized.

    Also, I get really annoyed with the “well, just hit it away from the shift” argument. That might have been a strategy when you’re going up against a rubber-armed guy whose fastball was maybe 86 and threw 150 pitches every fourth day. When teams are going to guys out of the bullpen in the fifth who are all throwing 97 and up, it’s not so easy to hit the ball at all, much less steer where it’s going to go, which is the era we’re in now.

    there is one surefire way to speed up the game: eliminate base stealing. no throws to first! no working from the stretch! no balks! faster innings!

    If I want to watch slo-pitch I’ll head down to my local park any evening in the summer.

    I mean, as a former umpire, there has always been a “pitch clock” and pace of play rules. I don’t know what this does other than let the players actually see the time remaining. All of this would have been unnecessary had the umpires and league officials actually enforced the rules already in place for the last 20 or so seasons, instead of letting it get to this point.
    This feels like a half hearted attempt to “speed up the game” and shorten game length, when of course we all know an easy way to cut time is get rid of the longer breaks between innings that now are required due to commercials.
    Most of the changes being implemented (pitch clock, base size, shift regulation) seem to be treating the symptoms not the disease. The shift would disappear on its own if players just bunted down the opposite field… MLB is starting to feel like the NBA to me, the players are no doubt more athletic and as a result better skilled (in most areas) than ever, but somehow that translates to less enjoyable version of the game. Sort of like once everyone is talented enough to do the amazing things, the routine and mundane things (like bunting) that are part of the game disappear and everyone is playing for the highlight reel. It is unsustainable.

    You start to walk the path when you say players are far more athletic, but that makes the game less watchable.

    A lot of fans talk about guys becoming better at hitting for contact as if it’s easy to do. But even the best contact hitters struggled to make contact against pitchers like Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan. Nowadays, the hardest throwers throw faster than those guys ever did, and the average high-leverage reliever is approaching their velocity. I see people lament the death of the bunt. Remember how scared John Kruk was of facing Johnson in the All-Star Game? Now imagine facing a guy like that, but squaring your body so your whole face is exposed to his fastball and it’s even more difficult to get out of the way. And that’s a healthy number of pitchers now. Yeah, no.

    I know baseball fans despise this, but the best way to make sure things match what they once were is to adjust the rules to the new nature of the player. I do think the consideration of a longer distance than 60’6″ has to be on the table at some point.

    I don’t think the problem is that games are too long, but that there are too many stretches of dead time. The obligatory four half-hearted throws over to first, stepping out the box after each pitch, pitchers walking around the mound after each pitch — and waiting for the between inning ads to play.

    If the pitch clock eliminates some of the dead time, count me in!

    Exactly, which is why it seems a crime that MLB is not more actively publicizing the rules change to reduce pickoff attempts. Pitchers can only step off the rubber twice in an at-bat now, and a pickoff attempt counts as a step off (technically, a “disengagement” under the new rules). Step off once to clarify signals with your catcher? Now you’ve only got one pickoff attempt while facing the current batter. Throw to first twice, now you’re out of freebies. Your next pickoff attempt will be a balk, unless the runner is out. I don’t know if we’ll see fewer total pickoff attempts this season, but we should see no more interminable at-bats where the pitcher throws to first or steps off two or three times for every throw to home. The new pickoff rule is essentially the rule book echoing my person frustrated shout to pitchers who throw over all the time, “Your out is at home, not on first!”

    Want to speed up the game by a good 20 minutes-ish? Eliminate 1 minute of commercial time every half inning.

    No argument that fewer commercials would be nice, but I think baseball’s problem isn’t that the games take too long, it’s that they go to slow. Time between pitches takes so long that it’s not pleasant to watch. I hope Manfred’s not reading this, but I’d gladly watch a faster baseball game, even if it had MORE commercials, and had the same length overall. (But please, no more commercials during innings, like during mound visits.)

    There are 17 half-innings in every game, so shaving 1 minute off commercial breaks would yield 17 minutes of game time. Game 6 of the World Series had 250 pitches thrown (which seems about normal for a typical game). Let’s just say that the average time between pitches in that game is 20 to 25 seconds. If you shave 5 to 10 seconds off each of those pitches, you save 20 to 40 minutes.

    Oh, absolutely. I don’t disagree that the new changes *should* speed up game times, and I welcome them. But you can shave a guaranteed 17 minutes off every game simply by eliminating 1 minute per half inning of advertising.

    HAHAHAHAHA. Like *that* would ever happen. And as much as 99.9% (give or take) on here bemoan the advertising on soccer kits, at least they keep a running clock with only those annoying in-game split/shrunk-screen ads. Baseball was never designed with the clock in mind, but maybe it’s time to change the thinking on this (as they are attempting to do with these new rules).

    I am excited to go to Opening Day and see how this all plays out. I think all 3 changes are going to improve the watchability of the game as a whole.

    If the clock starts when the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher, what would prevent the catcher from holding on to the ball a second or two or more before returning the ball to the pitcher thus giving the pitcher more time between deliveries?

    The clock starts when the pitcher is has the ball and is on the mound. Plenty will just step to the grass for a bit.

    I recognize, for baseball fans, any change feels dramatic, but part of change management is acknowledging that, if the change you make has side effects, you continue to make however many changes are needed until you get the desired results.

    If catchers start doing that, then I’m sure they’ll come up with some rule to cut down on that, too.

    As far as the bases go. Did the location of the sleeve in the ground adjust at all to compensate for the larger dimensions of the bag while keeping the distance between all bases the same?

    No, one of the explicit goals was to reduce the distance between bases, to increase steal attempts.

    I am not certain, but I suspect the 90 feet measurement to center of the bag. If so the holes for the base stems would be exactly 90 ft from each other (& the center of home plate). No change needed.
    The bases are adjacent to the foul line (entire base is fair or in play) so maybe the outer edge of the bases make the 4 corners of the 90ft square r.e. the diamond? Then they would have to move them all because 1st & 3rd would now “hang over” the foul line?
    I realize I completely contradicted myself… guess I don’t know the exact layout. Maybe someone who built or maintains a field does?

    Almost. Base distances are measured to the outside corners of home, first, and third, and the center of second. So first and third will need to move closer to home so their outfield-facing outer corners are 90′ from the back corner of home plate. Second is already centered where the back lines of first and third meet, so the post hole for second doesn’t need to move.

    Counter to the other reply thread, I’d think the anchor post would have to move for each base. If the side of the base remains flush to the base line (which I assume it would at first and third), and the back corner of the base is in the same spot as it was previously, that means the center of the base moves in a little over two inches (consult Pythagoras) and, accordingly, the anchor post would also have to move, unless they don’t put the sleeve on the center of the base. Second base should be able to remain where it is, but yeah, first and third are going to have to move.

    This is a good call in terms of thinking about logistics. Can you imagine if some team’s grounds crew forgets to reinstall its mounting posts and it causes some sort of delay on Opening Day?

    In theory, it should. It did in the minors.

    But the stolen base as a strategy over the past couple decades seems to have fallen into disfavor. The real question is will offensive strategy change (seems like now it’s try to get a runner or two on base and hope for the three run dinger, since analytics shows this is more effective than stringing together a bunch of hits). I’d love to see more hits, steals and sacrifices than K’s and dingers. Even if chicks do dig the long ball.

    Well, the reason the SB fell out of favor as a strategy is that data showed it to be a low-percentage play. But if the baselines are shorter and the SB success rate goes up, the data metrics may regard it more favorably and strategies may thus adjust accordingly.

    I don’t disagree with your reasoning, and I actually hope it comes to fruition. But stolen bases by themselves won’t change strategies if the current analytics favor the two or three-run dinger as the primary tool for scoring runs. Just watch an Atlanta game (at least in 2021-22). Those guys struck out a ton, and tried on almost every swing for that perfect launch angle (to launch that dinger). Result? WS win in 2021 and second best record in the NL (and first place in the NL East) in 2022. I don’t see how more SB’s (particularly with a chance of eliminating that potential baserunner) is going to change the analytics here. Our Mets *seemed* to be more of an abberation since they rely less on the big homer. Perhaps the larger bases will help teams with more contact hitters — and with the new infield configuration rules — but I still don’t see it changing the analytics which (unfortunately) prove the three run homer is the most effective way at scoring runs.

    Your point about the SB success rate due to larger bases (and less distance between them) should be proven correct. But even if it’s utilized more, will it still be enough difference to change the big dinger analytics? It’s still a two run homer if you get a man on first and he stays there versus a two run homer with a man who stole second.

    I *hope* increased stolen bases WILL be enough to change the analytics. But it seems most teams aren’t capable of stringing together multiple hits in an inning to achieve that success. I have a feeling (and hope to be proven wrong) that the analytics will *still* dictate the best odds of scoring runs come off the the multiple-run HR.

    I hate to say this…but I think a change in the K-zone (make it smaller) might be the best way to change analytics. Since that will result in more men on base, teams may want to try to increase baserunners rather than focusing on the big swing (with mostly misses) that anayltics currently favor.

    There was nothing wrong with the game of baseball before people became impatient or greedy and began inserting new ideas into an established game.
    The designated hitter… Why? I liked the strategy involved on both sides when a pitcher came to the plate. Instant replay…Why? Yes, sometimes umpires, (like all professionals in all professions, make mistakes), but rarely. Nobody is perfect. It’s what makes sport interesting and dramatic. Automatically putting a runner on second base in extra innings….Why? What’s next? The pitcher must throw under-handed after the the 12th inning?
    A game lasted as long as it needed to last. If a player is taking forever to get in the batters box or throw a pitch, let them know it from the stands or from the comfort of your couch. Sure, it can be irritating when players act human. Humans are weird. If you want to leave or are bored, go home or stop watching. It’s just a game. A game with a pace which may not coincide with your busy schedule.
    People are attached to their phones and the immediacy of the internet and the scrutiny of social media. Let baseball (as we knew it) be a refuge from this.

    Agree, agree, agree. If you do not like the pace of baseball go watch drag racing or sumo wrestling. Baseball was designed to be played at a leisurely pace, preferably in quiet, rural areas. Trying to adjust it to our modern times and tastes is like cooking a good stew in 10 minutes. Having said that I am curious how these biggerd bases, a visible pitch clock and the end of shifts will influence the pace of the game.

    “There’s nothing wrong with boxing. I mean, sure, the occasional fight seems to be fixed and there’s an alpahbet soup of governing bodies and the best fights continually end up going straight to closed-circuit or pay-per-view and we now know how bad head trauma can be and the occasional boxer dies in the ring, which makes us afraid to have kids watch, but that’s what makes the sport unique. Who cares that fewer people care about it anymore? It would be changing boxing that would kill it off. And furthermore — wait, why is it there used to be fights on every Sunday night and now don’t I ever hear about boxing anymore?”

    “There’s nothing wrong with horse racing. I mean, sure the occasional horse dies on television such that we’re afraid to have kids watch and grow fond of the animals and PEDs and cheating have been a problem and the tracks really feel like they’re only catering to degenerate gamblers more than anything, but that’s what makes the sport unique. Who cares that fewer people care about it anymore? It would be changing horse racing that would kill it off. And furthermore — wait, why is it my local track has been closed and I only hear about three races every year?”

    “There’s nothing wrong with baseball. I mean, sure, it’s slow and boring, particularly to kids who can watch TikToks faster than pitches occur in an at bat, and we’ve figured out a particularly boring, all-or-nothing style of play is actually more conducive to winning, especially as modern pitchers can all throw at speeds where all you can do is guess what pitch they’ll throw and defenses are so good at knowing what batters will do that the only solution is to hit over them, and there’s been PED and cheating problems, but that’s what makes the sport unique. Who cares that fewer people care about it anymore? And furthermore — … “

    With less and less left in the judgement of umpires, why not give them the responsibility of enforcing a legitimate pace of play? No one should understand a particular game’s momentum more than the home plate ump. Without placing a clock on the field, it should be left up to them to get the pitcher back on the rubber or the batter back in the box at the legit pace that game dictates. How to quantify? Not sure but maybe some sort of evaluation on a plate ump’s average game time over a period?

    Does the pitcher even need to throw the warm-ups when coming back out to start an inning ? I know it’s tradition and all but with all the focus on pitch counts and strain on the pitchers, why the need to add 25 or so throws on that arm per game ? Surely that bit of time saved adds up over the course of a game, if we’re looking at ways to subtletly shorten games.

    Want to speed up the game? Prohibit a batter from stepping out of the batter’s box after every pitch to adjust either: a) his helmet; b) his batting gloves; c) his jock; d) his belt (or all four) or take repeated practice swings.

    Want proof? Find a game from the 1970s/1980s on YouTube (link) watch the actions of those batters, and compare them to today’s batters. You will be amazed by the contrast!

    Batters should be allowed to step out to adjust their choice of any two of the things you mentioned, or two practice swings. LOL

    I truly hope that MLB keeps its word about enforcing balks. When I was growing up and learned to pitch, the windup was functional, to generate power and proper mechanics. Now, every reliever does some ridiculous set of gyrations, none of which is rooted to proper mechanics. It’s a chance to do something “look at me” that they hope will show up in MLB: The Show 23. Grab the ball, get the sign, wind and fire. All of the other extraneous stuff is needless flair, and is aesthetically ghastly.

    Let’s start paying the slap hitting, base stealers the same as the boppers and we’ll see the game change. The players, and their styles, follow the money.

    The feel of the game is important. A dull 2:15 game is still dull. An exciting four-hour tilt is exciting. The pace is crucial. The excruciatingly long ad breaks make the game both longer and duller. Back in the day, players would be ready to run to their positions as soon as the third out was made. Now, it’s a real saunter during the changeover. The pitch clock will quicken the pace, but I agree with a previous comment that fans will obsess over the clock. It could get comedic.

    The fans could start counting down the pitch clock on opposing pitchers, adding pressure, giving their team just a little bit more of a home field advantage.

    I think that fans should count down on visiting pitchers as well. But I’d prefer they do the college basketball trick of counting down from five when the clock reads “three” to give the pitcher a false sense of time available.

    I’m not convinced it will become an obsession. It’s like the play clock in football or shot clock in basketball. If you’re spending all your time super focused on that, you’re probably missing a good game.

    In certain situations, with particularly long workers, maybe it comes up, like with fans counting for Giannis’ free throws in the Finals a couple years ago. But most of the time, it’ll just be something where there’s an occasional violation, but is otherwise just something we eventually get used to.

    A lot of people are claiming to be “purists” here. I think it’s important to realize that many of these changes are designed to make the game feel more like it used to. Pitchers are behaving differently, and a pitch clock is designed to force them to behave the way they used to. Same with stolen bases. I am largely in favor of changes that curb innovations that are strategically wise but aesthetically frustrating. (Of course, they won’t touch any innovation that is aesthetically frustrating but good at generating revenue!)

    However, one of the key problems is the analytics around the use of pitchers. It has been deemed more valuable to have a bunch of max-effort 100 mph pitcher who can’t last more than a couple innings. Rather than create rules that protect that approach–like the only rule change I don’t like, the zombie runner–I think they should limit the maximum size of pitching staffs. Most fans appreciate the aesthetics of a dual between starters and it would help increase offense.

    I like the thinking-outside-the-box idea, and you have a point, but it’s probably a non-starter with the MLBPA for a couple reasons: First off, it would be awkward in terms of rostering and I’m sure there would be concerns that it would either lead to fewer roster spots or players being used less as an excuse to pay them less.

    The other problem is you’ll get the Gene Mauchs of the world who will then ask their pitchers to work beyond their limits to work around the rules and it will become a player safety issue. You’d presumably have to have some rule for what would happen if you went beyond your pitcher limit for the day. Position players pitching in important spots in key games? Pitchers faking injuries so “emergency” pitchers can come in, essentially rendering the rules useless?

    It would require some thought and I see too many scenarios coming up where it could become a fiasco. But it’s not a terrible idea because you’re onto something big: Max-effort pitching is at the core of a lot of baseball’s current issues.

    It’s a reminder that another proposed solution has been moving back the mound.

    The picture with all the guys crowding around those bases is very funny. Like it is some kind of groundhog day and the two bases have crept out of the ground to announce spring training. Or is it a tiny UFO visiting our planet?

    Is it just me, or once again has MLB avoided the obvious: the reason why games last so long is because hitters have been taught to swing for the fences, and pitchers have countered by only going for the strikeout? The only way MLB will actually improve their product is by 1) teaching pitchers to pitch to contact, and 2) teaching hitters to just put the ball in play. The game will never attract a newer audience without any action during the game, and nit-picking on peripheral rule changes (pitch clock, robotic umps, larger bases, etc.) won’t produce the desired outcome. Homeruns and strikeouts are exciting, but have deluded baseball, and until there is a philosophical change in both batting and pitching approaches, the game will continue to loose viewers to sports that offer faster products. A half hour difference in game time produced by a pitch clock will not change a thing when we are discussing a game that is shortened from 3.5 hours to 3. A game that is brought down to 2 hours with action all the time, runners on base, key, errors, and high tension, in my opinion, will really start changing the way people think about baseball.

    There’s no incentive to teach pitchers to pitch to contact or for hitters to stop trying for homers on every swing as long as the analytics show that striking guys out and swinging for homers are the optimum strategies for winning. That’s how we got here in the first place. The only solution is to make swinging for homers a NON-optimum strategy, by making them a lot harder to hit. You could deaden the ball, or (Bill James’s idea) mandate a minimum bat handle thickness.

    I’m old enough to remember the days when it was only the players who had ballooned up to ridiculous, cartoonish, proportions.

    If a stolen base record is broken, will there be an asterisk by it in the books? I seriously doubt anyone is going to touch Henderson’s total mark. But, a single season record could possibly be broken.

    Bases that are a couple inches bigger will NOT lead to the league leader in steals increasing their total by more than triple from last year, and I will bet my next mortgage payment on that.

    I live in a minor league town. The pitch clock has been around for a couple years. It has not impacted the game negatively. The thing that slows the game down are the pitcher changes. I have always accepted this as a given with minor league games. Sometimes the pitchers are going to struggle. I understand the frustration with the time it takes to put in a specific pitcher to face a specific batter and then substituting, but I also do not want to watch a pitcher in the game that has lost it and can’t leave the game because of substitution rules.

    MLB can do all kinds of things to speed up the game but its media partners (FOX, FS1, ESPN, TBS) are a big part of the blame. Yankees/Red Sox games routinely push the 4 hour mark because of commercials in between innings.

    My wife is not a big baseball fan, but I drag her along to local minor league (High A) park once or twice a summer.

    Her (exaggerated) complaint was always the game is too slow, prompting comments such as : “If I can get up, go to the bathroom, come back, and the same guy is still up after 15 foul balls, it takes too long.”

    Now, the pitch clock doesn’t address that, of course, but when we went last year, I didn’t tell her about the pitch clock. 5th inning comes along, and she says “boy, this game is really moving along for once.”

    I then pointed out the pitch clock. She watched it a bit, and declared it a success. Anecdotal, to be sure, but enough of a difference than a less-than-casual fan notices. FWIW.

    The biggest problem with baseball, is the people in charge of baseball keep saying there’s something wrong with baseball. I’m not opposed to these changes. I think they should help things marginally. But you turn off casual and potential fans if you appear on every TV show, podcast, news article explaining why baseball is broken and no one likes it anymore. You can positively market your sport while quietly making rule changes.

    There is something wrong with baseball: Viewing numbers are going down and the average audience is aging.

    They’re not wrong, and if you don’t make the sport appeal to young people, it will eventually die.

    Culture change has happened. The game has adjusted before. We should be OK with it adjusting again.

    Another possible aesthetic change as a result from the new rules. The infield boundary (i.e. where the dirt ends) now has to be enforced due to the requirement in the shift rule that says “the defensive team must have a minimum of four players within the outer boundary of the infield, with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base”. Apparently this led to adjustments in some parks.


    Relevant quote from the article:
    “Regarding the “outer boundary” of the infield, where the dirt meets the outfield grass, MLB will be paying attention to dirt in a way it never has before.

    The outfield boundary is defined in the rule book as a 95-foot radius drawn from the center of the pitcher’s rubber, and each infielder must have their feet entirely within the boundary (meaning on the dirt).

    For the first time, the dirt area of the infield had to be adjusted over the offseason in several Major League parks in order to comply with the letter of the law and ensure uniformity league-wide. The radius will be measured and monitored by LiDAR technology to ensure all parks are in compliance.”

    My biggest concern would be World Series, Game 7, Bottom 9, Two outs, Bases loaded, Full count. And then a time clock violation decides who wins the World Series.

    This would be fantastic to happen. Hopefully Manfread is still commissioner. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    MLB 2023

    We’ve had the dead ball era …
    We’ve had the modern era …

    Welcome to the post-modern era (or whatever you wanna call it).


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