13 May, 2023
The rule modifications MLB introduced this year are still having the desired effects over a quarter of the way through the 2023 regular season, including a quicker pace leading to a large decrease in overall game duration, more hits, and more steal attempts.
Through May 11, a total of 565 MLB games, or 23.3 percent of the regular season, had been played. As a result of the new pitch timer, the average length of a nine-inning game was 28 minutes shorter than it had been at the same stage in 2022. The current average game length is 2 hours and 37 minutes, which is shorter than the average of 3 hours and 5 minutes at this same point last year.
Additionally, it appears that the pitch timer allots adequate intervals between pitches. Depending on whether they were starting a new inning or just entering the game (clock set at 2 minutes and 15 seconds), pitching with no one on base (15 seconds), or pitching with runners on base (20 seconds), pitchers have typically started their deliveries with between 6.6 seconds and 8.1 seconds left on the clock.
A restriction on infield shifts, requiring a minimum of four players with both feet on the infield prior to each pitch and two players on either side of second base, is another significant rule change that was enacted this season. The outcome thus far? Batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, has decreased on average from.290 to.296.
Due to teams’ inability to position an infielder in short right field, ground balls pulled to the right side by left-handed batters have had the most spike in BABIP (35 points higher than this time last season). Additionally, left-handed hitters’ BABIP as a whole has dramatically increased, rising from.283 to.293.
Pickoff attempts are reduced, while both the number of attempts to steal and the success rate are higher in 2023 thanks to larger bases and restrictions on pitcher disengagements on the mound. The number of attempts to steal a base each game has increased to 1.8, the most in 11 years. The current success percentage in MLB history is 78.3 percent, which is the highest ever. In the meantime, pickoff attempts have decreased from six to five each game.
Along with the promising early results, players appear to be responding to the new regulations well, as the season has gone on, violation rates have generally decreased. Through May 11, there were no violations overall in 52% of the games.