The new pitch clock promises to bring substantial change to MLB this season, speeding up the game—which critics say can be a slog at times—by a significant amount. With Opening Day coming on Thursday, the league has shared some eye-opening numbers that reveal the impact of the clock, as well as some of the league’s other rule changes on 2023 spring training contests.
According to data provided to Sports Illustrated by MLB, spring training games through Tuesday took an average of 2:35. That is a 26 minute reduction in game time from 2022’s spring training played without the pitch clock.
That reduction comes despite offense being relatively flat, year-over-year. Last year, an average of 10.6 runs per game were scored in spring training. That mark was slightly down in 2023, at 10.2 runs per game. Batting average was also down this year, but only slightly: .259 in ’22 and .257 in ’23.
The rule changes could also have a stark impact on game strategy on the base paths. Along with the pitch clock, MLB has increased the size of the bases to 18-inch squares, from 15 inches. With the bigger bases, baseball hopes to alleviate player safety concerns, and to encourage teams to attempt more stolen bases and be more aggressive on the base paths. Combined with the pitch clock—and an additional rule that limits pitchers to just two step offs or pickoff attempts per plate appearance—baserunners should have far more opportunities to steal bags and increase scoring changes.
That played out in spring training as well. Stolen bases increased from 1.1 to 1.7 per game from spring training 2022 to ’23. Attempts were also up (1.6 to 2.3) and runners successfully stole bases 77.1% of the time in ’23, up from 71.3% in ’22.
Along with the pitch clock and larger bases, MLB eliminated the shift, made the automatic runner on second base in extra innings permanent, limited the situations in which teams can use position players to pitch and will enforce the balk rule on more unconventional pitcher deliveries that are deemed to violate the pitch clock with unnecessary motions.