New rules already having effect on MLB

New rules already having effect on MLB

A few thoughts from the week in sports …

I heard a report this week that said the weather was warmer here in Northeast Ohio than it was in Goodyear, Arizona, where the Cleveland Guardians are holding their spring training.

That was strange to hear but not the weirdest thing to come out of spring training. The new rule changes are already producing things never before seen in baseball, like a pitcher throwing only two strikes but still getting a strikeout.

Two strikes and you’re out should not be a thing, but now it is.

The Braves vs. Red Sox game in Fort Myers, Florida on Feb. 25 ended in a 6-6 tie after Atlanta batter Cal Conley wasn’t set in the box and facing Boston reliever Robert Kwiatkowski when the pitch clock wound under eight seconds.

The penalty is an automatic strike, which allowed Kwiatkowski to get the strikeout after throwing only two real strikes.

Welcome to baseball 2023, which will look considerably different for opening day on March 30.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the new rules.

Last September Major League Baseball’s competition committee approved rule changes that began in spring training this month. All of the new rules have been tried out in the minor leagues over the previous seasons, with the objectives of quickening the pace of play and getting more on-field action.

The rules include the following:

—Pitch clock: Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base or else a ball will be called. Hitters will need to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds left on the pitch clock or else a strike will be called. I’m worried about pitchers like the Guardians’ James Karinchak, who last year had a mini game of catch with himself and fixed his hair between every pitch.

—Elimination of the shift: When a pitch is thrown, all four infielders will be required to be on the infield dirt (or infield grass) with two on each side of second base. The MLB combined batting average dropped to .243 in 2022, the lowest since 1968, and getting rid of the shift will definitely lead to more base hits.

—Bigger bases: The size of bases will be increased from 15 inches to 18 inches. MLB hopes the bigger bases help reduce injuries while increasing stolen base attempts.

—Pickoffs: After a third step-off the pitching rubber, the pitcher will be charged with a balk, unless at least one base runner advanced a base or an out was made on the ensuing play after the step-off.

There will still be more effects on the game including umpires watching to make sure catchers don’t hold onto the ball in order to give pitchers more time, a batter getting one timeout per at-bat, and those bigger bases will make first and third base closer to home.

Major League Baseball hasn’t been as much fun to watch in recent years due to a lack of action. Too many plays result in either a strikeout, walk or home run.

I consider myself a baseball purist and love the history of the game, but when every reliever coming into the game seems to throw 95-99 and infield shifts help drop batting averages to their lowest number in 54 years, I’m OK with MLB actually trying these ideas.

My initial reaction is I like the changes — except for two-strike strikeouts — if it will result in more action and less standing around. Only time will tell.

Change infield fly rule?

The infield fly rule was put into effect in 1901. It has confused fans and led to controversy ever since.

According to, “An infield fly is any fair fly ball (not including a line drive or a bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort when first and second or first, second and third base are occupied, before two men are out. The rule is in place to protect against a team allowing a shallow fly ball to drop in with the intention of causing a force play at second and third or second, third and home. Otherwise, the team would be able to force out base runners who had stayed put on a routine fly ball.”

In these situations an umpire yells “infield fly” for the benefit of the base runners. The batter is out even if the ball is dropped, and the base runners can advance at their own risk.

One thing about that rule has always bothered me.

If the fly ball should be caught with an “ordinary effort,” then make the defense actually catch the ball.

Many umpires have called “infield fly” when it wound up being anything but an easy play. The ball landed in fair territory, but the batter was still out.

If the defense drops the ball after “infield fly” has been called, then award the batter first base and let each runner move up a base. Why let the defense get away with a drop?

Parting shots

The College of Wooster men’s basketball team compiled a 21-6 record, won the regular-season NCAC title and dropped an 81-80 heartbreaker against Wabash in the NCAC Tournament championship game at Timken Gym on Feb. 25.

It was even more heartbreaking for the Fighting Scots two days later when they weren’t picked for the Div. III NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament field of 64.

The NCAA awarded 44 automatic bids to conference tournament champion teams and 20 at-large spots. Wooster was denied an NCAA spot for the second straight year after having a streak of 18 straight appearances.

The Scots beat Wabash 75-74 on Feb. 18, but the Little Giants turned the tables in the conference final. Sophomore Jamir Billings, who broke Rick Hochstetler’s 1997 single-game program record with 10 three-pointers, scored a game-high 30 points.

Wabash’s Ahmoni Jones scored what proved to be the game-winning jumper with 10.2 seconds left. The Scots had a lot of time left but weren’t able to get a good look at the end, and Billings’ desperation fall-away shot from about 30 feet came up short in the final seconds.

It was a lot of fun for the Scots’ die-hard fans to follow this year’s team. Here’s hoping they get over the hump next year and back into the NCAA Tournament.

—Sam Williams-Dixon was one of the biggest football recruits to ever play in the Wayne-Holmes area, but he announced on Twitter last week he’s transferring out of West Holmes and will attend Pickerington North as a senior. The running back also announced the final five schools he’s considering: Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Kentucky and Tennessee.

I was definitely surprised to hear Williams-Dixon was leaving West Holmes but wish him the best. Williams-Dixon lived with the Maltarich family, and I spent time with them last summer for a feature story. He appeared to have an excellent support system between the Maltarich family and the West Holmes football program, but I’m sure Knights coach Zach Gardner will keep the program moving forward. And many locals will pay a lot more attention to Pickerington North football than in past years.

Aaron Dorksen can be emailed at

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