Significant changes coming to MLB in 2023
By: Eliana Detata
Feb. 23, 2023
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Major League Baseball season is right around the corner, but with some changes. Let’s dive into all new things baseball in this 2023 season:
This season, MLB has permitted teams to sell 4-by-4-inch ads on their jerseys. Not only does this generate revenue for teams, but companies can gain exposure through a deal with these teams by being shown on every single jersey. Leagues have done this before, including the NBA, MLS, and NHL.
The Cincinnati Reds secured a deal with Kroger worth $5 million annually, the Boston Red Sox have agreed to a $17 million annual deal with MassMutual, and the Los Angeles Angels agreed to a three year deal with Foundation Building Materials (FBM), to name a few. Due to the increasing amount of time that MLB players are on screen not moving, these sponsors will receive high levels of exposure. The patches will be easily visible when the camera is moving from player to player in between pitches.
Not many other teams have signed sponsorship agreements yet, as this is still a new concept and many teams do not know how much they can potentially offer.
In Triple-A this season, electronic strike zones will be the new normal. While some Triple-A ballparks have used this automated ball and strike system (ABS), all ballparks will now have some form of electronic strike zone. They will not all be the same, according to ESPN's MLB insider Buster Olney, there will be two different systems being tested:
“The Automatic Balls and Strikes system, commonly referred to as ABS, will be deployed in two different ways. Half of the Class-AAA games will be played with all of the calls determined by an electronic strike zone, and the other half will be played with an ABS challenge system similar to that used in professional tennis. Each team will be allowed three challenges per game, with teams retaining challenges in cases when they are proved correct.”
There is controversy as to whether or not this system will improve the game for fans, or if replacing human error with technology ruins the tradition of baseball. While the ABS system will improve the speed and accuracy of the game, there is debate as to whether or not having mistakes with calls is actually part of the game itself. Attendance at baseball games has been on a decline with most of its fans being an older demographic, and adding a technological piece to the game may attract the younger audience the MLB has been looking for.
New 2023 Rules
The MLB has decided to implement a series of rules that they believe will attract more fans, make baseball more entertaining, and improve the speed at which the game is played. Baseball’s biggest criticism throughout its existence has been that it is too slow and boring to watch. Commissioner Rob Manfred believes these rules will change this narrative and overall improve the game. The new rules are as follows:
Pitch clock: When the bases are empty, the pitcher will have 15 seconds to begin his motion from the time the catcher throws the ball back to him. The pitcher will have 20 seconds to do so when there are runners on base. Hitters also must be in the batter’s box with at least 8 seconds left on the pitch clock. If there is violation of either side of this rule, the pitcher will be charged with a ball or the batter will be charged with a strike.
Pickoffs: The pitcher can only step off of the mound twice per plate appearance for any reason: an attempt to pick off a runner, to get a new sign, etc.
Shifts: Unlike previous seasons, teams will not be allowed to shift their infield to one side of the field. Each team must have two infielders on each side of second base, and all infielders must remain in the infield (dirt or grass) until after the ball is pitched.
Larger Bases: The size of each base is increasing 3 inches (from 15 inches to 18 inches). The larger bases are aimed to decrease injuries on the base-paths, as well as promote more stolen base attempts.
By experimenting with these rules in the minor leagues and recording fan response, the MLB found that these rules had an effect on the overall enjoyment of the game. Therefore, they believe that implementing these rules will increase baseball's ratings, allowing the game to advance and reach new audiences.