Major League Baseball is going to look a bit different in 2024.
MLB's competition committee approved several rule changes on Thursday that will go into effect for the 2024 season. They include tweaks to the pitch clock, the baserunner's lane to first, the number of allowed mound visits and more.
Here's a breakdown of the changes:
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- The pitch clock, which was implemented last season, will be reduced from 20 seconds to 18 when there is at least one runner on base. MLB said pitchers began their deliveries with an average of 7.3 seconds left on the clock when the bases weren't empty last season.
- In a continued effort to speed up the game, MLB is also making changes in regard to dead ball situations. In the event of a dead ball, the pitch clock will reset as soon as a pitcher is given a new ball and play is ready to be resumed, rather than waiting until the pitcher is back on the mound.
- Following pitching changes, the clock will reset to two minutes, instead of two minutes and 15 seconds, if it's below the two-minute mark by the time the reliever is on the warning track.
- Should a pitcher warm up prior to the start of an inning, they will now be required to face at least one batter, barring injury. MLB said there were 24 instances last season where a pitcher warmed up and then was replaced before facing a hitter, which tacked on an average of roughly three minutes to those game.
- Teams will also see their number of allotted mound visits shrink from five to four. Clubs averaged just 2.3 mound visits per game last season, according to the league. An additional mound visit for the ninth inning will be given if a team has no more remaining. Defensive players also now have the ability to signal for a mound visit without actually visiting the mound.
- Finally, MLB is giving baserunners a wider lane from home to first base. The base path will now include the 18 to 24 inches of fair territory up to the edge of the grass. Runners previously could have been called out for interference if they didn't remain within the 3-foot box on the foul side of the base line.
"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," Seattle Mariners chairman John Stanton said in a statement, via ESPN. "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."
Stanton heads the competition committee, which met by Zoom and includes St. Louis Cardinals CEO Bill DeWitt Jr., San Francisco Giants chairman Greg Johnson, Colorado Rockies CEO Dick Monfort, Toronto Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, along with umpire Bill Miller. Players include Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zac Gallen, Blue Jays infielder Whit Merrifield and Giants outfielder Austin Slater along with the alternates of Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ and Baltimore Orioles pitcher Cole Irvin.
The changes were approved by the committee over objections from all five players who voted.
“Following last season’s profound changes to the fundamental rules of the game, immediate additional changes are unnecessary and offer no meaningful benefits to fans, players or the competition on the field,” the union said in a statement. “This season should be used to gather additional data and fully examine the health, safety, and injury impacts of reduced recovery time.”
MLB withdrew its proposal to have the plate umpire reset the pitch clock immediately after a batter uses a timeout. The committee tabled two proposals: one that would require pitchers to work from the stretch position with runners on base, eliminating hybrid windup/stretch deliveries that were used by 8% of pitchers last season; and another designed to prevent fielders from blocking runners at bases.
The first season of the pitch clock helped reduce the average time of nine-inning games in the regular season to two hours and 40 minutes. That was down 24 minutes from the 2022 campaign and marked the fastest pace since 1985. There was a slight increase over the course of the season, though, with the average nine-inning game going from two hours and 37 minutes in April to two hours and 44 minutes in September.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.