Baseball is feeling the winds of change. Next season, Major League Baseball (MLB) will introduce major new rules. Officials say it’s all for the fans.
America’s favorite pastime has been passing more time than usual. In the 1950s, the average MLB game lasted two and a half hours. Today, it lasts over three hours. Batters strike out more than ever. Infielders shift position over and over.
In other words? Some say baseball has gotten boring.
According to MLB’s competition committee, it’s all because of analytics.
Today’s teams use computers and algorithms to make decisions. Wondering which players to trade? Or where to position your infielders? Just ask the computer.
By treating baseball as economics, teams like the Oakland A’s have found record-breaking success. Analytics even helped the Boston Red Sox break the “Curse of the Bambino”: the 86-year stretch during which the team never won a championship. Winning teams draw fans to the stadiums. And full stadiums mean lots of revenue for ball clubs.
But critics say analytics destroy baseball. They say these data-based strategies create a slow-paced game. The analytics are probably here to stay. So new rules are proposed to speed up the game and keep it fun for fans.
What’s on the docket for the changes?
Pitchers will now face a 15-second timer (20 seconds if runners are on the bases). They also can’t step off the mound—or “disengage”—more than twice. No more stalling, even if there’s strategy in it!
The new rules will prevent infielders from shifting places when a new batter steps up. Teams will need to rely on athletic skill and versatility instead of algorithm-determined positions.
Lastly, the new rules will call for bigger bases. The organization hopes this will reduce collisions between runners and basemen. But it also may make it harder to get a runner out.
Only four MLB players sit on the competition committee. They voted against the new rules (except for bigger bases). They say these changes are an overcorrection.
Will the changes bring life back to a classic sport? Or might they introduce new problems?
There’s one way to find out: Play ball.
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. — 2 Timothy 2:5
(MLB will adopt a pitch clock in 2023, like one already used in minor leagues games. AP/John Minchillo)