Pop Culture and Media

MLB attendance is dropping—these 3 major rule changes are designed to make baseball more exciting

Under Major League Baseball's new rules, Yankees' ace Gerrit Cole will have 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty.
Sarah Stier | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Baseball is a game that thrives off of routine and rhythms, but this year the league is shaking things up.

Major League Baseball has implemented a slew of new rules for the 2023 season that it hopes will shorten games, increase offense and create a more exciting product for fans.

"Our guiding star in thinking about changes to the game has always been our fans. 'What do our fans want to see on the field?'," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a press conference announcing the rules back in February.

The new rules come as baseball has slowly lost popularity. Big league teams have seen in-person attendance decline for six straight seasons. Regular season attendance dropped from 73.76 million in the 2015 regular season to 64.49 million in 2022, according to Statista data.

Manfred noted that fans have been "really clear" about their desire for quicker games with more balls in play.

"Fans want to see more of the athleticism of our great players," he added.

As teams take the field on March 30 for Opening Day of the 2023 baseball season, keep an eye out for these three major changes.

1. Several changes are meant to speed games up

Trevor Larnach of the Minnesota Twins looks on in front of the pitch clock during a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves.
Brace Hemmelgarn | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Perhaps the most noticeable change for fans will be the implementation of a formal pitch clock. This season, pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw each pitch when the bases are empty and 20 seconds to throw each pitch when there are baserunners.

If a pitcher fails to throw a pitch in the allotted time, the batter will be awarded with a ball.

Batters, meanwhile, will need to be in the batters' box before the pitch clock ticks down to the eight second mark or they will be given a strike.

Pitchers will also no longer be allowed to throw to first base or step off of the pitcher's mound as many times as they want. Instead they will be allowed two disengagements per plate appearance.

This rules comes as the average length of a MLB game has crept over three hours. The pitch clock has on average reduced the length of games by an average of 26 minutes, the MLB said when announcing the new rule.

2. Teams can't employ the shift on defense

Defensive shifts like this one will no longer be allowed under the MLB's new rules.
Ezra Shaw | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Over the past few years, the shift has become a popular defensive strategy in baseball. Put simply, the shift is when team put their players out of position — for example, with all infielders on the right side of second base or an infielder placed in the outfield— against a batter who has a tendency to hit balls to a certain part of the field.

This strategy has been successful in stifling offenses league-wide as defensive strategy has been allowed to adjust to each hitter's strengths and weaknesses. In fact, last season's league-wide batting average on balls in play was .291, a full 10 points lower than it was back in 2006, according to MLB data.

Now, teams will be required to keep all their infielders in the infield, with two on each side of second base.

Under the new rules, an out made under a defensive alignment that breaks the rules would be flagged, and the hitting team can choose to either accept the outcome of the play — if, for example, a sacrifice fly results in a run scored — or take the penalty and award the batter with a ball.

3. Bases are slightly bigger to increase action and safety

First, second and third base are all increasing in size, going from 15 inches per side to 18 inches per side.

The move is designed to both increase stolen base attempts, which are frequently decided by fractions of a second, by reducing the distance between first and second base and second and third base by 4½ inches.

The league also hopes that the increased base size will help reduce collisions on the field by giving players more space to operate and stay out of each other's ways.

DON'T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Take this survey and tell us how you want to take your money and career to the next level.

I live inside a laundromat in NYC for $1,850 a month
I live inside a laundromat in NYC for $1,850 a month