Change is good. Except when it’s not.
Major League Baseball last week announced three rule changes for 2023 – rules that, for the most part, were among several getting a test run in he minors this season, including in the Pacific Coast League, where the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes play (when not rained out, like Tuesday.)
The changes include: A new pitch clock will be in place aimed at speeding up the game, defensive shifts will no longer be allowed, and wider bases used most of this Triple-A season will now also be used at the MLB level.
So, what do the Isotopes, who experienced two of the three rule changes most of the season think? Naturally, it depends on whom you ask.
There is a 30-second timer between batters, 15 seconds allowed between pitches when bases are empty and 20 seconds with runners on base. A pitch not thrown in time results in a ball added to the count. Pitchers can only have two “disengagements” per at bat, which include throwing to a base, stepping off the mound or having a catcher step in front of home plate to set up the defense. Hitters must be in the batters box by the 8-second mark on the clock or be assessed a strike.
The result in Minor League Baseball this season has been games played, on average, 26 minutes quicker than a season ago.
WARREN SCHAEFFER, Isotopes manager: “I love it. And I went into it with a bad attitude, and I should never do that. But it’s been great. I didn’t think that the hitters were going to adjust quickly, but they adjusted very quickly.”
COCO MONTES, Isotopes middle infielder: “It’s going to be better for the fans. I think the modern fan wants more action.”
Montes noted he benefitted at least three times this season with a ball being added to his count due to violations by pitchers.
RILEY SMITH, Isotopes relief pitcher: “If you don’t agree with your catcher really quick, you can get yourself in a bind, especially with the disengagement rules.”
He added,”Everything they’re doing is moving in the direction for pitchers to have less success and for hitters to have more. That’s fine, as long as they hold us to the standard that it’s moving toward and not to what it was. No one should be expected to have a 2.00 ERA whenever we’re (helping hitters) every time now.”
NO INFIELD SHIFTS
Four infielders must be in the infield dirt at all times (no more playing deeper and into the grass), and two infielders must remain on either side of second base for all at-bats.
SCHAEFFER: “Anything that messes with strategy, I’m not for. … That’s strategy, right? So you got get this big left-handed hitter or big right-handed hitter – anybody, really – that can’t hit the ball the other way, now you’re basically rewarding them for not being a well-rounded player.”
MONTES: “As an infielder, especially me as a middle infielder, I like that I can show my range again. Now guys like that are bigger, heavier playing second base or short who can’t run as well, now this should put an advantage back to the more athletic infielders who can cover ground.”
SMITH: “I do like that our position players aren’t going to be able to be on one side of the infield because that takes away the bunt.”
MLB will use the same 18-inch bases Triple-A has used since April over the usual 15-inch bases.
SCHAEFFER: “It’s a nonfactor for me. I don’t think it does anything for the running game. … If it helps injuries at first base, that’s good.”
MONTES: “I feel like it’s a lot more space. Around the base, when I’m turning double plays, I feel like it’s safer with the guy sliding in.”