Major League Baseball voted in favor of three rule changes aimed to improve the pace of play, action at safety, which will be implemented next season.
The league approved the use of a pitch timer, the limitation of defensive shifts and bigger bases during its Joint Competition Committee meeting on Friday (September 9), according to MLB.com.
The new pitch timer rule will enforce a 30-second timer between batters, a 15-second timer with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base.
The pitcher timer is credited with reducing the average MiLB game time by about 26 minutes, according to MLB.com.
Additionally, the rule will limit the amount of times a pitcher can throw to first base to check the runner, which is also expected to increase the total number of stolen-base attempts.
MiLB games saw steal attempts per increase increase from 2.23 in 2019 to 2.83 in 2022, as well as a 68% success rate in 2019 to 77% in 2022.
The league didn't, however, make a proposal for an automatic ball-strike system, which would include robot umpire umpires, or the alternative ABS challenge system, which had been experimented in select Minor Leagues in 2022.
The full details of the new pitch timer rule are listed below per MLB.com:
- The pitcher must begin his motion to deliver the pitch before the expiration of the pitch timer.
- Pitchers who violate the timer are charged with an automatic ball. Batters who violate the timer are charged with an automatic strike.
- Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark or else be charged with an automatic strike.
- With runners on base, the timer resets if the pitcher attempts a pickoff or steps off the rubber.
- Pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.
- If a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.
- Mound visits, injury timeouts and offensive team timeouts do not count as a disengagement.
- If a team has used up all five of its allotted mound visits prior to the ninth inning, that team will receive an additional mound visit in the ninth inning. This effectively serves as an additional disengagement.
- Umpires may provide extra time if warranted by special circumstances. (So if, as an example, a catcher were to be thrown out on the bases to end the previous half-inning and needed additional time to put on his catching gear, the umpire could allow it.)