Rockies’ reactions mixed as MLB adopts pitch clock, shift limits for 2023 season



Major League Baseball will undergo a seismic shift in rules for the 2023 season after voting Friday to implement a pitch clock and ban defensive shifts, all in an effort to speed up the game’s pace and increase action.

The Rockies have mixed feelings about baseball’s future.

“We’ll see how it all shakes out,” third baseman Ryan McMahon said. “It’s what they’ve decided to do. It’s going to be interesting, no doubt.”

Added manager Bud Black: “Overall, I’m fine with it. But I do think the pitch clock is going to require a big adjustment.”

MLB’s competition committee, made up of six ownership-level representatives, four players, and one umpire, approved:

— A pitch clock of 15 seconds with empty bases and 20 seconds with runners on.

— A defensive alignment that includes two fielders on each side of the second-base bag with both feet on the dirt.

— A rule limiting the number of pickoff moves.

— Expanding the size of bases from 15 to 18 inches square, with the idea that larger bases will reduce collisions around the bag along with slightly shortening the distance between bases.

Defensive shifts have become commonplace, with three infielders moving to the right side of second base, with one often positioned in shallow right field, frequently robbing left-handed hitters of base hits.

The number of shifts has grown exponentially over the past decade, from 2,357 times on balls hit in play in 2011 to 28,130 in 2016 and 59,063 last year, according to Sports Info Solutions. Shifts are on pace for 68,000 this season.

Next season, with all four infielders needing to be on the dirt when the pitch is thrown, the days of an outfielder “rover” are over.

McMahon, who used to be a full-time second baseman and is a left-handed hitter, can see both sides of the argument.

“As a hitter, I’m excited about the changes,” he said. “When you hit the ball hard, past the first line of defense, you want to be rewarded.

“But as a defender, (the shift) helped us take away a lot of outs. So we’ll see how it goes.”

Black said: “We going to see a lot more singles from left-handed hitters. A lot more singles for pull hitters.”

McMahon does believe that skill and athleticism at second base will become more of a priority.

“With the shift and all of the guys moving around, you haven’t had to have put the best defenders out there,” he said. “You could have guys who were just positioned out there to make the out. But I think it will help us because we have some good athletes.”

Starting second baseman Brendan Rodgers said, “I won’t affect me much, though I will probably be playing more straight up next year. So we’ll have to get new (fielding) charts and work on it next spring.”

The pitch cock, which has been tested in the minor leagues, has significantly speeded up games, when it’s enforced, reducing the average time of a nine-inning game in the minors from 3 hours, 4 minutes in 2021 to 2:38 this season. The average time of a nine-inning game in the majors this year is 3:06. In 1989, it was 2:46 in 1989, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

There will be a strict set of rules in place in the majors next season: The catcher must be in position when the timer hits 10 seconds, the hitter must have both feet in the batter’s box and be “alert” at the 8-second mark and the pitcher must start his “motion to pitch” by the expiration of the clock. If the pitcher violates the rule, an automatic ball is called. If the hitter isn’t ready, he’s given an automatic strike.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has long been a proponent of rule changes to quicken the pace of the game.

“Throughout the extensive testing of recent years, minor league personnel and a wide range of fans — from the most loyal to casual observers — have recognized the collective impact of these changes in making the game even better and more enjoyable,” Manfred said in a statement.

Black, however, anticipates that the pitch clock will make some pitchers uncomfortable, at least initially.

“My sense of this is that the guys who are a little bit deliberate are already thinking they are going to have to speed up,” Black said. “They are thinking about it already.”

Black added that during next year’s Cactus League games during spring training, “We’ll be on our guys about it.”

Also starting next season, pitchers will be limited to two pickoff attempts or steps off the rubber per plate appearance, something MLB is calling disengagement. A balk would be called for a violation unless there is an out. The disengagement limit would be reset if a runner advances.

Although the league’s competition committee approved the changes, the vote was unanimous. Player representatives voted no on the shift and pitch-clock portions of changes.

The committee includes Seattle owner John Stanton, St. Louis owner Bill DeWitt, Boston owner Tom Werner, San Francisco owner Greg Johnson, Rockies owner Dick Monfort, Toronto president Mark Shapiro, Tampa Bay pitcher Tyler Glasnow, St. Louis pitcher Jack Flaherty, Toronto utility player Whit Merrifield, San Francisco outfielder Austin Slater and umpire Bill Miller.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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