With a new baseball season upon us—actually starting on time since there’s no lockout due to the expiration of the CBA—there are new rules being implemented. And I hadn’t had a “Becky Yells About Baseball” post since February 2021 (!!!) so I figured it was worth spending time this week working on one.
Please keep in mind my opinions on these rules are solely based on having watched hundreds of games on TV, seen dozens in person, and managed my high school’s varsity baseball team for two seasons. I’ve never been a major leaguer nor will I ever be. So my armchair quarterbacking is what it is.
I’ve pulled all of the information from this ESPN article since it laid out the rules all in one article, and I didn’t have to hunt around for them. (It goes into more detail about what MLB is trying to change and the players’ responses.)
At the time a pitch is thrown, all four infielders are required to be on the infield dirt (or infield grass) with two on each side of second base. Players will be able to move as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. If the hitting team reaches base and runners advance on a ball hit under the violation, the game proceeds without penalties. If the play has any other consequence—an out, a sacrifice, etc.—the hitting team can decide either to accept the penalty—which would add one ball to the hitter’s count—or decline it, and the play would stand.
What’s the point of having a shortstop if he can’t actually play shortstop? In a shift formation, the shortstop is basically a backup second baseman. The shift was basically a way to get an easy out on getting a single before it could leave the infield. It hurts hitters, even though it’s just a lost single, but singles can add up. Just ask Billy Beane of Moneyball fame—it’s important for players to get on base, no matter how they get there. This is a rule change that I support, and I feel like a lot of left-handed hitters will too.
Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters will need to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds on the pitch clock. If a pitcher has not started “the motion to deliver a pitch” before the expiration of the clock, he will be charged with a ball. If a batter delays entering the box, he will be charged with a strike.
There’s been a pitch clock in the minors for a few seasons now, which I’ve seen firsthand at Hartford Yard Goats games, and the one Portland Sea Dogs game I saw last summer. It seems to speed up the game and prevent that annoying back-and-forth between the pitcher and catcher trying to agree on what pitch to throw. It looks like a couple trying to decide where to go out to dinner. I’m on board with this change.
Pickoffs are one version of a “disengagement,” which consists of any time the pitcher makes a pickoff attempt, fakes a pickoff, or simply steps off the rubber for any reason. Pitchers are allowed two disengagements per plate appearance without penalty. The disengagements rule resets if a runner or runners advance a base within the same plate appearance. After a third step-off, the pitcher will be charged with a balk, unless at least one offensive player advances a base or an out is made on the ensuing play after the step off.
Oh, if only Jon Lester was still playing and hadn’t retired before the 2022 season, however, he wouldn’t use any of his two disengagements per plate appearance. Because the man just couldn’t throw over to first.
Pickoffs are a “will-they-won’t-they” situation in that pitchers will throw over to first countless times before they get booed. Yeah, we get that you’re interested in the runner on first, but your main focus is the guy at the plate. If we wanted to see this kind of on-again, off-again relationship, then you could just watch any version of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. I’m in favor of this rule, too; hopefully, it’ll also shave a few seconds off the total game time.
The size of bases will be increased from 15 inches to 18 inches. The increase in the size of the bases should reduce injuries around them while increasing stolen base attempts.
As Meghan Trainor once said, “Because you know I’m all about that [base] / ‘Bout that [base], no treble [except when it comes to the base size].” I know there can be some weird baseball injuries:
- Chris Sale fell off his bike last year and broke his wrist
- Yoenis Céspedes twisted his ankle in a hole on his ranch in Florida (but turned out he suffered the injury during an interaction with a wild boar)
- Zach Plesac had a non-displaced fracture in his right thumb after taking off his undershirt and getting it caught on the chair at his locker
- Salvador Perez fell carrying luggage up a flight of stairs at his home
But I didn’t realize the 15-inch base size caused an increase in injuries during stolen base attempts? And how did they determine 3 inches will fix this problem? What about one inch? Two? I guess the bigger size will make it easier for players to grab onto when stealing a base, but a lot of them wear those mits now that hold their fingers together to prevent breaking a pinky.
Position Players Pitching
Teams will be more limited in when they can pitch a position player. The previous rule allowed them to use one when up or down by six or more runs, but the sides are discussing a tweak in which the leading team would have to be up by as many as 10 or more while the trailing team would have to be down by eight or more in order to pitch a position player.
This feels like a personal attack and I will take 100% offense to this. Position players pitching is one of the things I live for—along with the resurgence of the bullpen cart like five years ago.
I know teams have a bullpen for a reason, but why would you want to use one of your best relievers in a game when you’re down by dozens of runs? Yeah, it could give him extra game time to just pitch, but his talents aren’t needed in a situation like that. The best part of a blowout game is seeing your shortstop trying to lob the ball over the plate, barely reaching 60 MPH on the radar gun. To me, this feels like a “Let the kids play” example of the short-lived MLB campaign from 2019. Position players pitching are fun—just let them be.