Is America’s Pastime still baseball? This term was first given in the 1850’s but has had declining interest year after year. I personally love the sport as a father of 4 boys who all play travel baseball. They each play for teams in Howard County Maryland at the age group of 16u, 15u, 12u, and 11u. While I watch as many of their games that I can, either in person or following along on an app when I can’t be there, I don’t sit and watch many MLB games.
This year the MLB has implemented three new rule changes to help bring fans back.
1. PITCH TIMER
- 15 seconds with bases empty; 20 seconds with runners on
- Hitter gets 1 timeout per plate appearance; must be in batter’s box with 8 seconds left
- Pitchers get two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per batter; violations are a balk
- Limits on pickoff attempts led to 26% increase in stolen base attempts in Minors
- Pitch timer helped reduce game length by 25 minutes in Minors in ‘22
- So far this year the average game time is 2 hours and 38 minutes, down from 3 hours 8 minutes for the 2022 season.
2. SHIFT RESTRICTIONS
- Two infielders must be positioned on either side of 2B when pitch is released
- All four infielders must have both feet within the infield when pitcher is on rubber
- Shift restrictions increased batting average and decreased strikeouts in Minors while giving players more opportunity to show off their athleticism
- Across the initial days of last season, the batting average was .230 and it’s now up to .246. This year’s average sees them hitting .254 as opposed to last year’s .230.
3. BIGGER BASES
- 1B, 2B and 3B increased from 15” square to 18” square
- Bigger bases expected to have positive impact on player safety
- Distance reduced by 3” from home to 1st and home to 3rd, reduced by 4.5” from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd
- Bigger bases reduced injury events near the bases by more than 13% in the Minors in 2022
This may seem like a change that’s very minor but the average stolen bases per game is up from 0.6 last year, to 1.4.
While these changes clearly steer towards more offense in order to keep the fans more “entertained” are you more inclined to watch a 15-13 game or a 1-0 pitchers dual? In the age of instant gratification and constantly swiping for the next content there is something nice about the slow deliberate pace of baseball. Each pitch has careful intention with an equal an opposite action by the batter. The cadence of each pitch strung together makes up this beautiful game. Each pitch has me as excited as the next one.
Hope to see you at a Major League or Youth baseball game. Shoot me an email to let me know where you will be. Look forward to seeing you at a game.
Manish Patel (firstname.lastname@example.org).