Baseball season is upon us, as Spring Training games begin in less than two weeks, and Opening Day is less than six weeks away. It’s the most exciting time of the year for many people in Atlanta and the surrounding areas. The Braves are going for their sixth straight NL East title and hoping to raise the trophy for the second time in the last three years. However, with the numerous rule changes MLB has implemented for the 2023 season and beyond, the game is going to look and feel much different than it has in the past. Here’s what fans have to look forward to this upcoming season.
1. Shift Ban
The shift ban is likely the new rule that will impact the game the most, particularly for slugging left-handed batters that prefer to pull the ball. Every team must have at least four players on the infield at all times, with two players on each side of second base. Infielders also cannot switch sides of the field, meaning a shortstop, who is typically the best defensive player, may not go play second base when a left-handed batter is at the plate. If a team breaks the rule, the opponent can choose to stick with the outcome of the play or rule it a ball.
The one interesting aspect of the rule is it does not limit a team from moving an outfielder to the infield. So technically, a team could move their outfield around and put a fifth player in the infield. That could come with some significant consequences, but don’t be shocked if some teams take advantage of that caveat.
2. Pitch Clock
The shift ban might have the biggest impact, but the pitch clock will be much more recognizable because it’s in play at all times. There will be a 15-second timer when there are no players on base and a 20-second timer when there are runners on. If a pitcher does not begin his motion before the clock runs out, an automatic ball will be the result, but that’s not all this rule entails.
Pitchers will also be limited to the number of pickoff attempts and step-offs between each pitch. They can only disengage twice. If they do so a third time, the runner(s) will be given a free base. This will likely have a much bigger impact on each game, increasing the amount of stolen bases.
3. Bigger Bases
Another aspect that will favor base stealers is the bigger bases. Instead of being 15 inches, the bases are now 18 inches. This is primarily to avoid collisions, particularly at first base, where a number of injuries occur each season. However, it should also result in more stolen base attempts, especially with the implementation of the new pitch clock.
Of all the changes Major League Baseball is implementing next season, this is my favorite. For the first time ever, every team will play each other, as they are cutting down the games against divisional opponents. The Braves previously played 19 games against each NL East team. That number has been trimmed to 13, and they will play 46 games against the American League.
Ever since Rob Manfred has taken over as commissioner, there haven’t been many decisions of his that I have liked. This one, however, I love. Divisional games are awesome, but 13 games is plenty, and we now get to see stars like Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge every season. As of now, this isn’t a permanent change, but I have a feeling it will be here to stay.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
You must log in to post a comment.