The 2023 MLB season will go down in history as the debut year of many rule changes to make the game more exciting. Most of the changes are “change of pace” adjustments meant to cut down on game times.
The most notable one has been the pitch clock which pitchers are now forced to adhere to. After experimenting with the clock over 8,000 MiLB games, it was determined that a pitcher would have 15 seconds with empty bases and 20 with runners on to begin his pitching motion. If a pitcher violates the clock, they are charged with a strike. If the batter violates the clock by not being ready for the pitch, the pitcher is awarded a ball.
So how are things going now that pitchers and catchers are under extra pressure?
Let’s look at a few areas of the game to be affected by this new rule.
Game Times Way Down
According to the MLB, the pitch clock’s main goal was to reduce game times. While many long-time fans don’t mind a four-hour showdown, the MLB thought quicker games would help attract younger viewers.
We are now two months into the season, and one thing is certain: the average game time is noticeably shorter.
The average MLB game lasted 3 hours and five minutes in 2022 before the rule changes. So far in 2023, MLB game times are down 28 minutes. If the season ended today, it would be the shortest league average for a nine-inning game since 1984.
MLB Fans Watching More
While not all fans are pumped about these changes, the general public enjoys shorter and more exciting games. Average attendance is up from 16,566 to 27,267 fans per game.
MLB attendance is up + 1,129,781 compared to this point last year or an avg of +1,852 per game.
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) May 15, 2023
While an extra 700 fans per game may not seem like a lot, dig deeper into the numbers, and you will see that each team’s lowest games for fan attendance are up between 5% and 55%.
Home viewership is also up, with games averaging a 1.2 television rating, which is the highest mark for the league in more than 10 years. FOX baseball viewership is up 10%, and some games on ESPN are up 20%.
According to a YouGov poll, fans support the new rules, with only 13.8% of participants wanting to nix the pitch clock.
Unwanted Results of Faster Pace
The pitch clock is significantly impacting pitchers, and not at all in a positive way. While the league tried to tout that the new rules would help limit pitcher injuries, the opposite has been true for two months.
So annoying now with all the pitcher injuries , it takes forever to get odds on some of the games! Because there are at least 10+ minor league starters now.
I really hope they move the pace clock to 20 seconds universal for next season. Its too rushed now, INJURIES!
— Your Boy TonyPro (@TonyPro_Picks) May 24, 2023
While it’s hard to say precisely what is causing the uptick in elbow injuries, many fingers are pointed at the pitch clock.
The league thought pitchers would conserve energy due to the time restrictions, and we would see a slightly lower average velocity on pitches. So far, that has not happened, and the average fastball velocity is exactly the same as in 2022, with the bases empty and occupied.
All of the rule changes have been disadvantages to the pitchers, but the league doesn’t want these guys getting hurt.
Don’t expect the rule changes to go away, but if injuries continue to rise, some adjustments must be made to preserve elbow health.