After drastically altering the pace of the game in 2023, Major League Baseball liked the results so much that they’re doubling down for 2024 — with several rule changes on the way that figure to have a noticeable impact. Among the changes approved by MLB’s competition committee on Thursday are subtracting two seconds from the pitch clock with men on base — from 20 seconds down to 18 — and reducing each team’s mound vists per game from five to four.
News: MLB competition committee approves changes for the 2024 season including:— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) December 21, 2023
-18 sec clock with runners on
-4 mound visits, down from 5
-If a P starts to warm up before an inning, he must face at least one hitter.
-The runner’s lane to first has been widened to the inf grass
The majority of the changes for 2024 relate to pace of play, as the league tries to trim even more time on the margins — according to the league, the length of the average nine-inning game increased by seven minutes from April to September last year, the first to institute a pitch clock and a cap on the number of pickoff moves per at-bat. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know:
- With men on base, pitchers will have 18 seconds instead of 20 to begin their motion to home. There won’t be any changes to the clock when the bases are empty, however, with pitchers still given 15 seconds to begin their delivery. According to the league, pitchers began their deliveries with an average of 7.3 seconds remaining on the 20-second timer in 2023.
- After sparking several controversies during the 2023 season, the runner’s lane from home to first has been widened to the cut of the infield grass. Previously, the unwritten rule was more or less that batters had to run on the dirt of the base line, between the foul line and 3-foot line, or risk being called out for interference. The distance between the foul line and the infield grass will be between 18 and 24 inches in all parks, with some limited grace periods granted by MLB due to difficulty in modifying the field.
• Barring an injury, a pitcher who starts warming up at the start of an inning will now be required to face at least one batter in that inning. Previously, they could be replaced during or after warmups. The league says there were 24 instances last season where the pitcher that warmed up between innings was replaced before throwing a pitch — adding approximately three minutes of dead time.
• Mound visits will be reduced from five to four per game — teams averaged only 2.3 mound visits per game in 2023, according to league data, while 98% of games last season would not have exceeded a limit of four visits. Umpires will also permit defensive players to signal for a mound visit without actually visiting the mound to help improve pace of game. Teams will still be awarded an extra mound visit for the ninth inning if they’ve used four after eight innings.
• The pitch timer will now reset after a dead ball as soon as the pitcher is given a new one and play is set to resume. He no longer has to be on the mound for the clock to reset, preventing the pitcher’s ability to delay a restart by walking around the edges of the mound.
• During pitching changes, if the clock is under 2 minutes as the reliever exits the bullpen and onto the warning track, it will reset back to 2:00 rather than 2:15 as it did last year.
• The league withdrew a proposal to reset the pitch clock as soon as a batter calls a timeout. Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to when the clock starts up again.
The competition committee is comprised of six owners, four players and one umpire, giving the league a majority vote on any changes. The rules announced Thursday are minor compared to those enacted for 2023 when the pitch timer was introduced in the majors for the first time, the shift was banned and the bases were widened. As a result, average game times dropped by 24 minutes last year.
“From its inception, the Joint Competition Committee’s constructive conversations between players, umpires and owners have produced rules that significantly improved the game for fans,” John Stanton, chairman of the competition committee as well as the Seattle Mariners, said in a statement. “These modifications will improve on last year’s work by the Competition Committee, which was a resounding success with our fans and for the sport.”