The rules implemented by MLB at the start of the 2023 campaign to quicken the pace of play and shorten game times have had the desired effect.
According to MLB Communications, the average nine-inning game is on “track” to finish at two hours and 40 minutes this season, a 24-minute decline from 2022 and a 30-minute drop from 2021. If the current trend continues through the end of 2023, game times will reach their lowest average time since 1985.
The rule changes – adding a pitch timer, making defensive shift limitation and enlarging bases – were met with skepticism by some, but they’ve all had a mostly positive impact.
Not only have the time of games dropped drastically, but shift changes have opened up more lanes for base hits, leading to more offense. Hit totals are slightly up this year (40,065) from last (39,672), while run totals have also risen, from 20,817 in 2022 to 22,016 as of Friday.
Meanwhile, making the bases slightly bigger and disengagement rules have enticed more players to steal. Entering play on Friday, there had been 3,426 stolen bases, already well surpassing 2022’s total of 2,487.
While players seemingly adjusted well to the new way of doing things, tweaks to the recent changes were always possible. With that in mind, MLB plans to test some possible modifications to the already-adopted rules and potential new ones baseball could add in the future.
According to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com, the Arizona Fall League will be the guinea pig for the big leagues. The AFL will feature several rule changes from last year, including “modest modifications” to the pitch timer and a redefining of the runner’s lane. MLB intends to gather data throughout the fall season in a constant attempt to perfect the rules of the ever-evolving game.