Braves: Impacts of 2023 rule changes

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The sport of baseball is in a vital phase right now. As they try to capture the attention of the younger generation, a lot of rules are up in the air. One key issue is pace of play, which has been a hot topic for years. MLB is in a transition phase, and on top of this, the recent lockout has put a wedge between the league and its fans. Because of these prevalent issues, the MLB has announced some major rule changes that will take place in 2023.

Shift Ban

The bane of all left-handed hitters, the shift, will be no more, beginning in the ‘23 season. This attempt to increase baserunners seems promising and will place a higher value on left-handed bats. Out of all of the announced rule changes, the ban of the shift is most likely to change the game as we know it and restore baseball to its glory days. Who wouldn’t want to see more hits and spectacular defensive plays? Small ball might become a viable strategy again. Defense at second base will also become more important; without the shift, second basemen will have a lot more responsibility.

For the Braves, this rule change will have a few benefits. First, Ozzie Albies’ defensive wizardry will be accentuated. Switch hitters and lefties like Albies, Matt Olson, and Eddie Rosario might also see an uptick in performance. Looking at Olson’s spray chart, he would rack up quite a few extra hits with the shift gone. Pretty much all left-handed hitters will benefit from the ban of the shift. 

Second Base Changes

Second base is going to be made bigger, and its position will be shifted on the diamond. Doing this will decrease the distance between second and the other bases. Hopefully, this will lead to an uptick in steals. One of the most exciting parts of baseball is action on the basepaths, something that has disappeared in the modern era. I’m most looking forward to this change. The MLB is trying to incentivize the return of small ball strategies and add strategic depth. Recently, the prevailing strategy has been “swing for the fences”; that’s about to change.

The impact of this for Atlanta is one that could be historic. Ronald Acuna Jr. might finally join the 40-40 club. 2019 saw him come tantalizingly close, and this margin of inches could be all he needs. Other speedy stars such as Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson will increase their stolen base count too. 

Pitch Clock

The last notable rule change coming into effect is a pitch clock. This won’t have a different impact on Atlanta than any other team, but it’s still worth looking at. Pace of play has been something talked about for a long time. Games have been getting longer and longer as attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter, but I’m not sure a pitch clock is the answer. A baseball game can’t be packaged up into a ten-second TikTok. Installing a pitch clock will be helpful in shortening games a little, but I don’t necessarily think that will correlate to an increase in viewership. 

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