Report: MLB Expected to Approve Pitch Clock, Shift Restrictions, More Rule Changes

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 8, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: A view of a bag of baseballs during the game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies  at Nationals Park on June 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
G Fiume/Getty Images

Major League Baseball is expected to approve major rule changes Friday, according to The Athletic's Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

A pitch clock, larger bases and restrictions on defensive shifts are among the ideas on the table.

Drellich and Rosenthal noted MLB "ultimately has the power to push through the changes it wants" because the commissioner's office has a majority of representatives on the competition committee.

The pitch clock would arguably be the biggest alteration. The proposed rule would limit pitchers to 20 seconds with runners on base and 15 seconds when the bases are empty before they start their throwing motion.

MLB has already experimented with a pitch clock in the minors, and ESPN's Jeff Passan wrote in April how it was "dramatically speeding up the pace while not having a demonstrable effect on scoring."

Devan Fink @DevanFink

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Similarly, the new 18-inch bases in MLB would match what's already being used in the minors. The idea is to increase the rate of stolen bases and limit the risk of injury since there's more of the bag for the baserunner to claim.

In an accompanying change, pitchers will only be able to attempt two pickoffs per plate appearance. On a third pickoff attempt, the pitcher will be charged with a balk if he fails to throw out the runner.

That theoretically creates a fun chess match between the runner and pitcher.

Corn Crake @cdgoldstein

I think the idea here is that runners will take more aggressive leads after two throws, making a successful pickoff and stolen base more likely. Then it's up to the pitcher what gamble he wants to make.

None of that is likely to be met with much resistance among fans. Banning defensive shifts, on the other hand, might be a hot topic.

"Under the proposed shift restrictions, a minimum of four players besides the pitcher and catcher would have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt, and two fielders would need to be entirely on either side of second base," per Drellich and Rosenthal.

Hitters across MLB are batting .243 this season, which is the third-lowest rate since the expansion era began in 1961, per FanGraphs. This isn't a new trend.

Almost everybody will agree there needs to be fewer of the "three true outcomes" and more action on the field. However, it's not immediately obvious how banning the shift solves that problem.

Matthew Pouliot @matthewpouliot

No. Taking away the shift is a big advantage for the pull hitters who tend to make less contact. <a href="https://t.co/2FxQtMKm5y">https://t.co/2FxQtMKm5y</a>

Mike Petriello @mike_petriello

Like, I think there's a sizeable portion of fans who will be floored a shift ban doesn't massively cut K or raise BA by 25 points across the board. But at least we'll get to prove that in action.

There's also the fact managers will have the option of challenging whether the opposing team is violating the shift rules. Expanding scope of replay reviews only risks lengthening games and undercutting the benefits of the pitch clock.

But fans better get used to the idea now because it appears the ban on shifts is all but inevitable.