The rule changes implemented last season were a smashing success, but Major League Baseball remains unsatisfied and adamant about being aggressive in that department. With that in mind, the Competition Committee approved several new rules for the upcoming 2024 campaign.
Before getting into what will change, an essential point must be made. As this development was announced, the MLB Players Association came out with a statement that all player representatives voted against the new rules.
The MLB Competition Committee is composed of six owners, four players, and one umpire. Evidently, the players by themselves can’t veto anything that’s vehemently pushed by the owners. It is worth noting that prior to the current CBA, the league could unilaterally implement any changes without player input whatsoever. The players’ only win in that regard at the moment though is that their complaints are officially registered and can be brought back to the table for the next CBA.
Here are the new rules that will come into play, as well as the adjustments to those already in place.
A stricter pitch clock
There were small increases in terms of game time as the season went on. A natural occurrence as players started to get more familiar and thus were able to work around the new rules.
With that in mind, MLB decided to decrease the pitching clock from 20 to 18 seconds, on occasions with a runner on base.
The clock resets when the pitcher gets the ball
One of the exploitable aspects that pitchers picked up on is no longer available. Last season, the clock would only start when the pitcher was standing on the mound, which allowed some players to pace for a bit to gain extra time.
Now, as soon as the pitcher gets the ball, the clock will start.
If a pitcher is sent out for an inning, he must face at least one batter
Last season, if you wanted to give a reliever some extra time in the ‘pen, you could send a starter back out there to warm up for the start of an inning and take him out before he even threw a pitch. Another example came in the World Series, when Rangers pitcher Josh Sborz returned to the mound and warmed up to start the eighth, only to see Arizona pinch-hit Pavin Smith against him. Texas skipper Bruce Bochy then swapped Sborz out for Aroldis Chapman.
This gambit is seemingly no longer allowed. If a pitcher warms up before a frame begins, he must face at least one hitter.
Less time to warm up
New pitchers will also only get two minutes to warm up, instead of the 2:15 that was in place last season. When a pitching change happened last season, the break took on average a little over two minutes and a half.
Wider lane for baserunners
Baserunners will now be able to run to first through the side of play in the infield dirt before the grass. The running lane will be widened across all 30 parks, as seen below:
The highlight of the MLB Competition Committee's rule changes for 2024 is a widened runners' lane to give batters more room -- between 18 and 24 inches -- while going between home plate and first base.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) December 21, 2023
Also, the pitch clock will be reduced from 20 to 18 seconds with men on base. pic.twitter.com/nN3cd3EKXF
Four, no longer five mound visits per game
All teams will now only have four visits to the mound per game, with the exception available for a fifth only if the team enters the ninth inning with none remaining.
Teams won’t be allowed to have five visits before the ninth, nor to visit the mound twice in the ninth, in case they enter the frame having only used three. Position players will also be able to call for a mound visit without actually going there first.
Some of these changes are less consequential, but others are pretty significant, and it’s telling that the players voted against it.
We shall see if there are any significant repercussions on the subject. Although one is probably right to assume that if we got through last season with flying colors, things shouldn’t be as difficult now.