MLB rule changes, explained: 3 players who will benefit the most

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Jul 24, 2022; Oakland, California, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder Kole Calhoun (56) reacts after a called third strike during the sixth inning of the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball will certainly have a different look to it in 2023. Here are three of the biggest MLB rule changes coming to the game and what it could mean.

In a tweet, baseball insider Jeff Passan quickly broke down two of the biggest changes coming to MLB in 2023.

Let’s look at the each of the 3 big MLB rule changes a player who could benefit from them

Rule change #1: Banning the shift

In 2023, all four infielders must be “on the dirt,” meaning no infielder can be positioned in the grass as has been the case in the past. Two infielders must be on the left side of second base, while the other two must be on the right side of the bag, meaning teams can no longer load up one side of the infield.

If the team batting deems that a team employed an illegal shift during a completed at-bat, the positioning of the infielders can be reviewed and, if found to be illegal, can accept the outcome of the play or take a ball to add to the count.

Rule change #2: Implementing a pitch clock

The pitcher must deliver a pitch within 15 seconds of the clock starting if there is no one on base, or 20 seconds if there is a runner on base. Any kind of pickoff attempt or having the pitcher step off the rubber will cause the pitch clock to reset, but there is a limit to two of these actions per plate appearance.

According to Passan in this article, the pitch clock rule has several rules within it. As Passan writes, “The catcher must be in position when the timer hits 10 seconds, the hitter must be have both feet in the batter’s box and be ‘alert’ at the 8-second mark and the pitcher must start his ‘motion to pitch’ by the expiration of the clock. A violation by the pitcher is an automatic ball. One by the hitter constitutes an automatic strike.”

Rule change #3: Larger bases

Bases will increase from 15 to 18 inches in 2023, giving more room to both the runner and the fielder to make a play at the respective base while hopefully cutting down on the amount of collisions. With the increase in base size, the distance between bases will go down in an ever-so-slight way.

Combine shorter distances with fewer allowed attempts to keep the runner at base could well lead to more stolen bases in 2023.

Which MLB player can perhaps benefit most from the shift rule change?

There are plenty who could benefit from this change, but the player who has faced the shift the most over the past two seasons is Kole Calhoun of the Texas Rangers, who, as of early June, had faced a shift in 96.7 percent of his at-bats, the most of any MLB player.

Entering Friday’s play, Calhoun was slashing just .207/.264/.352 in his first season in Texas. His wOBA without the shift stands currently at .365 while his wOBA with the shift employed is .265.

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