Competition committee to vote on proposed 2023 rule changes on Friday

The competition committee will vote on several proposed rule changes for the 2023 season, the Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal report. Tomorrow at 11:00 AM CST, a formal vote will be taken on a pitch clock, defensive shift restrictions, pickoff limits and enlarged bases.

As Drellich and Rosenthal point out, it seems only a formality that any proposed changes will be implemented. The Match Committee was established by mutual agreement between the league and the players’ association during the most recent round of collective bargaining. It is an 11-person panel designed to vote on possible changes to the rules of the game on the field. That committee consists of six league officials, four MLB players and an umpire. SNY’s Andy Martino reported in June that the league would be represented by Dick Monfort, John Stanton, Greg Johnson, Tom Werner, Mark Shapiro and Bill DeWitt for this ballot. The players on the panel are expected to be Jack Flaherty, Tyler Glasnow, Whit Merrifield and Austin Slater (with Ian Happ and Walker Buehler as alternates), while Bill Miller will represent the umpires.

With MLB appointing a majority of the committee, it is generally expected that the league will be able to make the desired changes with relative ease. (MLB had a unilateral right to change the rules of the game under the previous CBA, although it was required to wait an entire year after formally proposing it to the MLBPA in the event that the union refused to agree to earlier implementation). Under the current collective labor agreement, the committee can make rule changes 45 days after making a recommendation to the union. That grace period is irrelevant to this series of proposals, all of which are aimed at 2023 and beyond.

The timing of the vote was unclear, but it has seemed like a formality for months that each of the pitch clock, a shift restriction and larger bases would be implemented by the start of next season. MLB had pushed for all three of these stipulations during CBA negotiations this past season. The parties eventually agreed to temporarily suspend any changes to the product in the field and focus on larger economic issues, but it seemed inevitable since March that these three factors would be (and very likely become) on the agenda. approved) for the 2023 campaign.

Drellich and Rosenthal report details of the proposed changes. Pitchers would have 15 seconds to start their pitch with no one on base, while they would have 20 seconds to start their move with runners on board. The countdown begins when the pitcher has the ball, the batter and catcher are near home plate and all base runners are in an appropriate position. Catchers must be in position with no more than nine seconds left on the clock. If either the pitcher or the catcher violates the stipulation, an automatic ball is called.

Batters also have a time limit. They must stand in the penalty area and “warn the pitcher” with no more than eight seconds left on the clock. If he is not prepared, an automatic strike will be assessed. (The league also has the power to impose additional discipline on players and/or staff who circumvent the clock). There are 30 seconds between batters and 135 seconds between innings and for pitching changes.

The pick-off limit is also a measure of the pace of play. Pitchers are allowed to free themselves from the rubber twice per plate – whether they are throwing a pick-off or for some other reason. Doing so resets the clock for that pitch. A pitcher can undo a third time, but an automatic balk is judged if the runner is not thrown out. Essentially, the exit rule limits pitchers to two “free” pickoff attempts per batter. After two failed step-offs, the pitcher may attempt another pick-off, but the runner is credited with an automatic base if he is not thrown out. If the runner advances without a ball in play — via a balk, stolen base, wild pitch, etc. — the pitcher’s withdrawal limit is reset.

The pick-off limit is intended to encourage more aggressive runners, at least among faster runners. Especially if a pitcher uses his first two step-offs, a runner can theoretically extend his lead. The third disconnect means the runner will not have a free rein, but there will be more flexibility to push the leadoff, knowing that another failed pick-off attempt will be treated as a balk.

As for squad restrictions, teams should use four players (excluding the pitcher and catcher) on the infield. All infielders must have both feet on the ground and two players must be completely on opposite sides of the second base bag. A shift violation results in an automatic ball unless it occurs on a ball in play or a hit batsman. If the runner does reach, the game stands. If a nil is registered, the batting team manager decides whether play stands. In most cases, of course, they wouldn’t do this, although there are certain situations (eg a sacrifice fly) where teams can be satisfied with the outs for the progress of other baserunners. Whether a team has violated the team ban is re-evaluated, while possible pitch clock violations are not.

The league has experimented for some time with the possibility of limiting shifts in an effort to increase the batting average on balls in play. That has involved some rather complex and extreme testing in the minor leagues. Jayson Stark of the Athletic reported in July that MLB introduced a “pie-slice” restriction on low-A level switching. Not only did that require two infielders on either side of second base, it also cut a restricted area around the bag to prevent middle infielders from playing deep and just on their side of second base to eliminate potential hits in the middle. That is not in the proposed rule changes for MLB in 2023, to be clear, but it illustrates that the league could experiment with further defensive restrictions over time if the initial squad ban doesn’t deliver a desired increase in basehits.

The bases, meanwhile, would be increased from their current 15 square inches to 18 square inches. That’s a small change designed to facilitate more aggressive bases and minimize the potential for collisions when stealing.

Drellich and Rosenthal report a host of other timing restrictions (on hill visits, in-stage music, defensive timeouts, etc.) that would also go into effect if passed. The Athletic’s message is worth a read for those interested in all the changes likely to come to the majors next season.