Atlanta Braves: A quick MLB rules change primer heading into the 2023 season

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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With the 2023 season coming up fast, there are several things that will look pretty different when the Atlanta Braves take the field for the first time thanks to some rules changes we will see in 2023. We have already written a bit about what some of these changes could mean for some Braves players, but we wanted to give a quick primer on all the changes that are going to be put into place for 2023.

That said, we aren't going to get into ALL of the minutia of the changes...this is going to be mostly broad strokes. If you are looking for an extensive breakdown with all of the details, MLB.com put together a pretty good one last fall that you can find right here. Here are the rules changes coming to MLB in 2023.

Pitch Clock

There is actually a lot to goes into this change, but the short version is that pitchers will have 15 seconds between pitches with no runners on base and 20 seconds between pitches with runners on base. Pitchers are also limited to two "disengagements" per plate appearance (pickoffs or step offs) and if a pitcher throws over a third time and is not successful, the runner automatically advances. Batters aren't off the hook either as they need to be in the box at the eight second mark on the pitch clock or else they will be awarded an automatic strike.

The goal of these changes is to improve the pace of play and it has made a very big difference in the minor leagues. This should shorten games considerably and while there will be an adjustment period, most pitchers in the minors were able to make the adjustment without too many headaches. Now that Kenley Jansen is no longer a Brave (he was one of the slowest guys in terms of pitch tempo in the game), one Braves player that this could impact include AJ Minter who had an average of 23 seconds between pitches. Most of the Braves' pitchers work reasonably quickly, though, so this shouldn't be a huge deal once folks get used to it.

The pickoff restrictions have also increased the number of stolen bases in the minors as well as the success rate on attempts. While that might not be great news for Travis d'Arnaud who isn't great at controlling the running game, it does certainly make us feel good that the Braves added Sean Murphy behind the plate who is QUITE good at controlling runners on the base paths. It will be interesting to see how Max Fried deploys his excellent pickoff move during plate appearances now and it is fair to say that guys like Ronald Acuna Jr., Michael Harris II, and Ozzie Albies are going to be strategizing how to steal some bags in the most effective way possible in 2023.

Limits on the defensive shift

The days of infielders all shifted to one side and a couple of them standing in the outfield grass are over as there are now limits on where infielders can position themselves starting in 2023. All four infielders need to be within the boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber, infielders cannot switch sides (shortstops need to stay in the shortstop spot, etc.), and if there is a violation, the offense can either choose an automatic ball OR the result of the play.

The Braves weren't the shiftiest team in previous years under Brian Snitker, but this end up with the Braves giving up more runs than they did previously especially with the loss of Dansby Swanson on the left side of the infield. The end goal of this change is to get some more offense going, especially on ground balls, so this is hardly surprising. Pitchers with high ground ball rates like Kyle Wright and Max Fried could be affected more than others, though.

This should also help the guys on the roster that are pull hitters with Matt Olson being a pretty obvious case here. The offense tends to hit the ball hard and try to hit it over the fence, so it should have less of an effect on them vs. others, but it will still be nice to see some of these Ozzie Albies (and others) grounders not be swarmed by three defenders.

Bases are going to be three inches bigger

This is a change that has been a long time coming. Starting in 2023, instead of bases being 15 inches by 15 inches, they will be 18 inches by 18 inches. This should result in a small increase in stolen bases as there is more real estate for runners to get their hands/feet to the bag, although it shouldn't be a huge difference. It is worth noting that this could make getting successful pickoff moves harder given how many of those plays are very close.

The biggest gain from this change should be from a safety perspective. We have seen countless examples of pitchers running to cover first and collisions/horrific injuries like the one Tim Hudson suffered being the end result. Just having a bigger bag so that fielders and runners can make plays without risking injuries as much is a big win here.