New MLB rules will bring seismic changes to play and roster building

New MLB rules will bring seismic changes to play and roster building

In building the roster, teams are going to have to consider slow-working pitchers and fast-running players more than ever.

The new seismic rules that were officially codified this week to begin use during the 2023 MLB season will dramatically change the product on the field. Naturally, teams will retreat to their labs (they had probably already started a bit in anticipation) to determine which type of players benefit the most and are most affected by the rulebook changes.

The Competition Committee voted Friday that beginning in 2023, MLB will install a pitch clock, eliminate dramatic shifts, reduce pick pitches and expand bases. Each move would vary between significant and substantial in itself. In combination, it is monumental square.

This is the long-awaited aftershock of the analytical revolution. Managers in metric-centric baseball operations departments behaved exactly as they should have. Their jobs were on the line, and if games took longer than four hours because every strategy designed to maximize the pace of victory slowed down, so be it. They were judged on wins, not entertainment value.

Thus, the speed and movement of the pitchers were accentuated to miss the bats. Mixing in plenty of high-octane relievers that drain batting average and boost strikeouts has spread to all 30 teams. Computer programs showed where each batter hit the ball most frequently, and teams positioned their defenses accordingly. All of this made it so difficult to get a hit — let alone a one-inning group to score runs — that the offensive counter had to prioritize the surest way to get a run: pitching for homers.

All of this led to less action on the pitch and longer matches. This coincided with MLB – vying for a younger demographic of fans, in particular, and a broader audience, in general – trying to satiate a society with a shorter attention span.

So MLB has finally – after years of experimentation in the minors and trying to persuade players to jointly agree to changes in the majors – decided to make changes that they believe will speed up the pace of games. while simultaneously increasing the action on the pitch. All four players on the competition committee voted against the clock and shift bans. But that wasn’t enough votes to win.

So next year a pitch must be delivered within 15 seconds without a base and 20 seconds with occupied bases. Defenses must have two infielders on either side of second base, and infielders must be on infield until a pitch is released. A pitcher can disengage from the plate twice for a punt or out attempt, and if a third attempt fails, the runner will automatically be awarded the next base. The bases will increase in size from 15 to 18 square inches, which, among other things, will bring the distance between the bases closer to 4 ¹/₂ inches.

There are codicils on each, but that’s the heart of the impactful rule changes to come. So, let’s take them one by one to guess what they might mean as far as list building goes:

1. The tall clock

I asked eight executives if it would make them hesitant to acquire a traditionally slow worker (a bullet fired each time the step clock is violated). Four said not at all, that stuff – pitch characteristics, drive and pitch IQ – would basically always be key. The other four said it should be part of the considerations, but mostly thought the vast majority of pitchers would adapt over time to work faster.

Keep in mind that it’s more about relievers. Of the 50 slowest workers (minimum 250 pitches thrown with no one on base), only three (Jose Suarez, Tylor Megill and Shohei Ohtani) were starters. The question will become whether, if teams ask relievers to work faster, it will lead to an inability to recover and throw maximum effort on every pitch, forcing either greater command with less speed, or greater dependence on secondary land.

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Shohei Ohtani
USA TODAY Sports

The slowest workers are mostly veterans, and some — like Aroldis Chapman, Brad Hand, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel — will be free agents. Will interested teams believe that grizzled relievers can learn new (faster) tricks?

And let’s not hesitate to find out if this change leads to a loss of speed. This season, players were hitting .261 and swinging and missing on 11.6 percent of shots thrown at 94-96 mph. At 97-99 mph it was 0.242 and 18.5. It’s also the most dramatic part of the game, and rather than what has become the usual slog as relievers take a long time to pitch, the game should move quicker at its most tense points.

Additionally, batters must enter the box faster (ready to strike with no less than 8 seconds remaining on the pitch clock) or else be charged with a strike. The question is how it will affect batters who like to take their time, especially with runners on base – such as Mets teammates Pete Alonso, Mark Canha and Brandon Nimmo, who will be a free agent, as will other slow hitters, such as Matt Carpenter and JD Martinez.

2. Shifts

There are concerns that the abolition of shifts could have the unintended consequence of encouraging teams to employ the one-dimensional left-handed hitter, the type of hitter who had become harder to pay and play as the change reduced batting averages. The theory is that now they could still aim for home runs and be rewarded with hits more often.

I’m not sure the one-dimensional player is any more appealing given all the changes. The change will emphasize the need for athletes who are further and better on the court, particularly on court and second, but even at the traditional slugger position at the start, as there can no longer be two other players infielder joining the first baseman’s side of the field. in certain situations. Most teams would rather not lock themselves into a singular DH anymore, preferring that the DH be open, at least, to 50 games a year to spread around regulars whose bats remain in the lineup, but who otherwise rely on playing on the field.

Even if you have a non-moving drumstick, would you want more given that playing defense will be tougher next year and base stealing will almost certainly be on the rise (more on that in a bit)?

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Josh Bell is one of the players most affected by the change.
PA

Plus, as one NL executive put it, “The play is distorted when you hit a 100 mph hopper to right field and the second baseman stands there to turn it into an out. It should be a success.

Who is the player who has lost the most hits this year? Ohtani, with 24. He, however, won 14 thanks to the shift. Still, it’s minus-10 overall and the difference between a .267 average and a .287 average, something to think about if you’re considering trading for Ohtani in the offseason. As one AL official put it: “Analysis of changes [of what guys would have hit without the shift] will be easy with templates.

And who is the player who lost the most total hits in the shift compared to what was won? Free agent first baseman Josh Bell at 13 under.

3. Limited Pickoffs/Bigger Bases

These changes are partly about safety (larger bags, for example, lead to fewer collisions). But the combination of the reduction in pick-up throws with the shorter distances between sacks is to encourage stolen base. Bigger sacks should also lead to more hits.

Trea Turner was already an attractive free agent. Would he be more so because he was already a historically elite base stealer (84.3% hit rate) and is a year-to-date leader in fielding hits? The game goes further in its direction in 2023.

Will teams think more about keeping a speed player like Terrance Gore or Billy Hamilton, not just when rosters increase in September, but all year? Will teams try to emphasize speed more than ever?

Consider that even if the Yankees retain Aaron Judge, they might think they’re as much burners as bombers in 2023. Harrison Bader, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe have proven to be high-percentage base stealers. With the larger bases and draft rules in effect at the minors this year, Peraza and Volpe combined for 77 interceptions on 88 tries (87.5%). At the majors, Judge has 16 interceptions in 18 tries this year ahead of bigger bases and fewer pick-up potentials.

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