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New Rules, Better Baseball?

Major League Baseball’s new rules are designed to make baseball more exciting to watch.

A baseman stands on a very large base catching a ball as a hitter slides toward the base.

© Lawrence Weslowski Jr, Ligonography/; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

MLB’s new bases aren’t quite this large, but they’re large enough to make stealing easier.

How do you make sports exciting to watch? It’s not always enough to recruit talented athletes. The game itself needs to be well paced and full of action. Major League Baseball (MLB)’s new rules, which took effect with the opening of the 2023 season, are designed to bring a little more exhilaration to the ballfield.

Here’s how MLB’s new rules are designed to address some common complaints about baseball.

Not Enough Hits!

Batting averages have been declining, meaning that batters aren’t doing as well as they used to. MLB wants fans to see more hits (exciting) and fewer strikeouts (less exciting). 

“Fans want to see base runners,” Matt Duffy, infielder for the Kansas City Royals, told the New York Times. “They want to see first-to-third, they want to see triples, they want to see home runs. They don’t want to see strikeouts and nobody on base and 350 pitches thrown in a game.”

To increase the number of hits, MLB is putting a limit on “shifts.” In baseball, a shift is a movement of players from their traditional positions in the infield or outfield. Recently, teams have been more likely to move their infield players so there’s an extra player on one side—usually between first and second base. This puts left-handed batters at a disadvantage because it makes it harder for them to get a hit. 

The new rule is that there must be two infielders on each side of second base—never three on one side of the base.

Baseball field with bases, infield, outfield, and pitcher’s mound labeled.

© Merriam-Webster Inc.

New MLB rules limit the number of infielders on one side of a base.

Not Enough Action!

Last season, the average MLB game lasted for more than three hours, partly because there were long stretches of inactivity between plays. 

This season, there’s a limit of 30 seconds between batters. There are also limits on the amount of time that can be taken between pitches and the amount of time batters can take to be in the batter’s box and ready for the pitch.

Not Enough Stolen Bases!

MLB says baseball fans want to see more stolen bases—when a player goes to the next base before the batter at home plate has even hit the ball. 

In part to encourage players to try to steal, MLB has made the bases larger. Now there’s less distance between the bases, so it’s easier to get from one to the next.

Duffy says he’s happy that his sport is putting the fans first.

“A lot of people think our job, as an industry, is to win games,” Duffy said. “No. Our job is to entertain first. If the product as a whole is not entertaining, people aren’t going to come.”

Did You Know?

© Jkkphotos, Enterlinedesign/, © Vladitto—iStock/Getty Images; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Baseball bats can be made of wood or aluminum, a type of metal. But aluminum bats aren’t allowed in the major leagues. Why not? When an aluminum bat hits a baseball, it makes the ball go farther than a wooden bat. Combine that with the awesome batting talent of major league players, and baseballs would fly so high and be hit so hard that they could injure people on the field and in the stands. Plus, it takes more skill to get a home run with a wooden bat. And seeing raw talent is always exciting.

Baseball Poetry

Rare Book Division/The New York Public Library Digital Collection

These illustrations were created in 1912 to go with the poem, “Casey at the Bat.”

April is National Poetry Month in the United States. Did you know that baseball has been inspiring poets for more than 100 years? In fact, one of America’s most famous poets—Walt Whitman—was a baseball reporter back in the 1850s.

Why do poets love baseball so much? Maybe it’s the drama of the sport. Here’s a little bit of one of the most famous baseball poems ever, “Casey at the Bat,” which was written by Ernest L. Thayer in 1888.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

Baseball has everything a poet needs: rhythm, suspense, action, and emotion. Even baseball terms—like changeup, southpaw, bullpen, and grounder—seem poetic.

An MLB Record Holder

Ron Jenkins/Getty Images Sport

Aaron Judge holds the American League record for number of home runs in a single season.

You can read about Judge’s career—so far—at Britannica School.






: a feeling of great happiness and excitement

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