Recent Rule Changes and Predictions for Future Changes
Rule changes are a common part of baseball, and really sports in general. Whether the goal is to make the sport more interesting to watch, even the playing field between offense and defense, or counteract cheating and rule bending, these changes can often be a point of contention among players, fans, and the league as a whole. In this blog, we take a quick dive into the latest rule changes in baseball, as well as talk about some of the rules that have not yet been implemented in the majors.
New Specs for Baseballs
In 2021, a committee of experts recommended narrowing the gap in the overall specifications allowed for an official baseball (size, weight, COR, etc.). Now, all Major League baseballs are within a much smaller window of specifications, with a COR centered towards the middle of the newer spec gap. One of the purposes of this is to prevent the 7-8-9 hitters from hitting tons of opposite field bombs, which incentivizes them to keep the ball in play. This should also motivate pitchers to pitch towards contact rather than away from it.
This rule is more of a revision to a previous rule than a new rule all together. Essentially, if following a dropped third strike the umpire or batter deflects the baseball (accidentally or not) the batter is out and all runners return to their bases. The change here is removing intent from being a factor in making the call.
Extra-Inning Runner at Second Base
This one technically is not a new rule, but starting back in 2021 it is now confirmed to be an official and permanent rule change. This rule has already sped up the amount of time most games take quite significantly, and also resulted in a huge increase in viewership, in some cases doubling numbers from 2019 and earlier.
Umpire Review Announcements
Plans for umpires to announce the results of replay changes with explanations similar to what happens in the NFL have been in the works as far back as 2019, when COVID-19 put a stop to virtually all new rules and changes. However, we should be seeing this change finally and fully implemented in the upcoming 2022 season.
Predictions/Rules That Will Be Implemented in 2022
This idea is already in place in Triple A, and will most likely be incorporated into the Majors in 2022. The current bases have been the downfall of players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, and it’s about time we saw some changes made. The new base is 18 by 18 inches and 2.5 inches tall, making it both much wider and noticeably shorter than the standard bases used in the past. The bases also have a softer, non-slip surface, as well as obvious corners to provide better push-off and feel.
Restricting the Shift
Already being used in Double A, this new rule will limit the shift by demanding that the four infielders must have their feet inside of the outer boundary of infield dirt. This will also mandate that two infield players remain on either side of second base, hopefully returning baseball to it’s more classic style of play.
Speaking of bringing back a more classic style of play, this is a rule that could really change the way the game is played. This rule would require the pitcher to step off the rubber in order to pick off a runner stealing a base, incentivizing runners to steal more bases. While we most likely won’t see this rule in 2022, it’s potential to make the game more exciting may incentivize it’s adoption sooner than later.
15-Second Pitch Clock
This rule is still only a possibility for 2022, but is what many believe to be a necessary step in making the game just that extra bit more fan-friendly. The problem right now is most players are not a fan of shortening their time on the mound. However, shifting from a pitch every 25 seconds to every 15 could do wonders for those watching the sport.
Changes in the Strike Zone
This is a big one. The strike zone will be changed from its traditional box shape to more of a window in line with the front edge of the plate. The zone will sit between the 56th and 28th percent of the batter’s height. While currently being used in Low A, we probably won’t see this change until at least 2023. Baseball has the technology or it, but the league needs some time to see how it actually plays out in games before making a final decision.
As you can see, a lot has changed and a lot will continue to change in the world of baseball. There might even be new changes being made at the time this blog is posted. As long as these new rules make the game more fair and more fun to watch, there is no reason to stop changes being made.