Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Changes are a-coming for 2023


Today, the MLB competition committee voted in three rule changes to go into effect in 2023. One is minor, but two are significant, major changes that will alter the sport.

Here’s a couple other opinion pieces on them, from the Athletic and Baseball America, but below i’ll put in my two cents.

Larger Bases, Pitch Clocks, and Shift Bans are going in. Lets talk about them one by one.

  • Bigger Bases: a non-issue, i’m not sure why anyone would really care about a slightly larger base. They avoid injuries and slightly help the running game. Studies show base-related injuries are down 13.8% since the larger bases were installed. And not surprisingly both the executives and players on the committee voted for this unanimously.
  • Pitch Clocks. I know current major league pitchers are going to whine about them. But the results speak for themselves: The average time of games in the minors where the pitch clock was implemented went from 3:04 in 2021 to 2:38 in 2022. That’s 26 minutes … ALL of it dead time watching the pitcher and batter stand there, waiting for the next pitch. This is a fantastic move that will have serious, positive watchability impacts on the game.
  • Defensive Shift bans: two players must now stay between 2nd and 3rd base (meaning, no more roving third baseman into short RF against lefties), and all players must have their feet on the dirt. The evidence supporting this change is pretty clear: as documented by Jayson Stark in this Feb 2022 piece, 4,802 hits were taken away by the shift in 2021, which is countered by 3,946 outs given away by shifts that gave away a standard ground ball. That’s nearly 1,000 extra hits gone from the game, primarily against left-handed hitters. So, this change will absolutely return some offensive parity to the game.

I like all three changes. I look forward to them in 2023.

Written by Todd Boss

September 9th, 2022 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Nats in General

18 Responses to 'Changes are a-coming for 2023'

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  1. While this is being rammed down the throat of players it’s mostly a very good thing. For those of us who watch minor league ball the pitch clock has already started. And it’s shortened games by 25 minutes! Not one of those lost minutes was missed. It’s pitchers walking around, hitters needing forever to get ready. A far better game.

    The bigger bases will help with injuries, which helps.

    The shift ban seems extreme; they were using the shift on Ted Williams in the 40’s, for crying out loud. How that ban is interpreted will define everything.

    The pitch clock has me very excited about 2023.

    Mark L

    9 Sep 22 at 4:56 pm

  2. Love the changes. Old guy pitchers will justifiably complain about the pitch clock, and it may result in injuries, but the change is for the greater good.

    As for the shift, it’s good strategy (which is why it was used on Ted Williams). But 2022 MLB’s problem is too few hits, and this surely will increase them.

    Next big change: robot ball/strike calls. I think the tech just isn’t ready for prime time, but it will be some time. I look forward to when floating, capricious strike zones are a thing of the past.


    10 Sep 22 at 12:32 pm

  3. I would challenge anybody to watch a minor league game and then say they aren’t in favor of the pitch clock. the players brought this on themselves, they bitched and refused to change their piddling ways when they tried to get them to speed up a few years ago.


    11 Sep 22 at 11:05 am

  4. I would not characterize these changes as being “shoved down the throats of the players.” It sounds to me like they suported these ideas, but wanted them relaxed in later innings, which got them pushback … and then they voted.

    The players could have demanded more input on these changes in the CBA negotiations, but did not. That’s on them. Once again, they traded off certain items to get themselves other items (money), and failed to see the forest for the trees.

    Todd Boss

    12 Sep 22 at 11:33 am

  5. I have confidence that Dave Roberts will still find ways to make playoff games last four-plus hours . . .

    I really thought the game would evolve and punish shifts, but it hasn’t. I probably wouldn’t have been in favor of legislating against shifts as of a couple of years ago, but I think we’ve reached the point where it’s a good idea. I do find interesting the provision about having feet on the dirt, as second basemen in particular have been playing deeper for a long time.

    Also, does on the dirt apply in the interior direction? As in, can you still play the infield in or have 3B and 1B in for expected bunts?

    The pitch clock has been long-needed. I’ve never understood what a pitcher thought he was gaining by stalling anyway. The faster a pitcher works, the less time the hitter has to think and adjust.

    With the larger bases, perhaps we’ll have fewer of those insufferable reviews to see if a base stealer might have lost contact with the bag for a micro-second (aka the Trea Turner review).


    12 Sep 22 at 1:05 pm

  6. I think the value to pitchers for more time between pitches relates to effort: more time means more max effort pitches, which means more velocity. In weightlifting, it’s generally accepted that a person can lift more weight if he rests for more time in between sets. It’s plausible to me that the same principle works for pitchers.

    And I agree with KW: I would not have supported a shift ban a few years ago and support it now given that hitters haven’t adjusted to the shift. I think the reason hitters haven’t adjusted is because the adjustment is self-defeating: turning a LH masher into a singles hitter (by going the other way to beat the shift) helps the defense, not the offense. In other words: it still makes sense most of the time for the Bryce Harpers of the world to go for an XBH through or over the shift than to take a single the other way.


    12 Sep 22 at 2:27 pm

  7. It’s anecdotal evidence, but I seem to remember that a lot of really good pitchers worked quickly, including Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Roy Halladay. Mark Buehrle made an art form of it. Johnson didn’t seem to have any difficulty recouping quickly to keep bringing the heat.

    In the transition period, it will be the old dogs who have to learn new tricks. The guys coming up from the minors will be used to it.

    I agree with Derek about the punishment of power LH hitters who the shift is trying to force to hit to left field. No one wants to pay to see Bryce or Juan become punch hitters. It’s less of an issue with RH hitters because first basemen can’t stray as far from the bag as third basemen do.


    12 Sep 22 at 5:40 pm

  8. Not much to add here other than these are all really good changes, and I know at least one person who has mostly stopped watching MLB because of frustration with the pace of play and the lack of offense and is excited about the game for the first time in years as a result of these changes.

    I hope they make the difference we want to see. But it’s a very encouraging sign that MLB recognizes the increasing length of games, the rise in “three true outcomes”, and the decline in batting average is bad for baseball and needs to be fixed.


    13 Sep 22 at 11:46 am

  9. Totally agree with the concern about “three true outcomes” (aka K are OK!) and declining batting average. In the big trades, the Nats have gone after guys who didn’t K that much (at least until they got to this organization) in Ruiz, Abrams, Hassell, and Wood. Yet with the top draft picks, they’ve gone totally “three true outcomes” with House and Green. We’ll see how that works out. (And ask Infante how swinging for the fences has worked out for him this season. Connell too.)

    Related, robo-umps can’t arrive soon enough. I understand that there are still kinks in the technology, but one also doesn’t get the sense that MLB is nearly as concerned about moving forward on this issue with any deliberate speed as the baseball-watching community is.


    13 Sep 22 at 1:28 pm

  10. The other biggest change from the pitch clock is how differently relievers will pitch. Now, you have the reliever who gives max effort, walks around and recovers for 30-40 seconds and then gives another max effort pitch. That will end. A welcome change.

    Mark L

    13 Sep 22 at 2:28 pm

  11. The pitch clock will help team defense as well. Fielder concentration wanders when there’s SOOOO much time waiting on the next pitch. You get very tired of just standing there.


    14 Sep 22 at 8:41 am

  12. The other day, Seth Romero faced eighteen batters. Of them, he struck out (8), walked (2), plunked (1), or gave up a home run (2) to thirteen of them. That’s pretty remarkable, honestly.


    16 Sep 22 at 12:46 pm

  13. Considering that Romero is barely touching 90, he already seems to have entered the “crafty lefty” stage of his career. Despite the lack of velo, he’s getting an incredible number of K’s . . . and walks. At least he seems to have finally gotten in shape.

    But man oh man, what little contribution the Nats are getting from their top picks. Other than the one MLB outing by Cavalli (who has progressed very well and seems nearly MLB-ready), the ONLY top pick contributing to the Nats at the MLB level is Fedde and his 5.24 ERA.


    17 Sep 22 at 9:02 am

  14. “Happy” Closing Day to all on the worst season possibly imaginable. I did say on Opening Day that I thought they would be doing well to win 70. Maybe I can recycle that statement next spring. Some took it as negative this year, but it may be overly hopeful in 2023.

    I assume that they will go with a “Young Guns” pitching staff of Gray, Cavalli, Gore, and (maybe) Adon . . . except that they have no choice but to keep rolling out Corbin, and they seem too stubborn to move on from Fedde. There are a couple of interesting relief prospects waiting in the wings in Cronin and Brzykcy.

    And what a sucky year for the draft lottery to start. It looks like the lottery order selection is expected to take place during the winter meetings in September. With the Nat organization now pretty well stocked with bats, I guess I’ll get on the Chase Dollander bandwagon early.

    Last but not least, I hope that Todd hasn’t given up! But I can certainly understand a lack of enthusiasm for dissecting a dumpster fire.


    5 Oct 22 at 1:24 pm

  15. And then Fedde goes out and makes a super case to be non-tendered in loss #107 — NINE earned runs in 2.1 IP. He turns 30 in February. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

    The Nats end the season with an incomprehensible team ERA of 5.97.


    6 Oct 22 at 6:02 am

  16. Our only first-rounders since Fedde (2014) to reach MLB as Washington Nationals are Carter Kieboom, Seth Romero, and Cade Cavalli. Kieboom has a 62 OPS+ over I think 106 games, while Romero and Cavalli were bombed and then immediately got hurt following their brief appearances; Romero’s last appearance came more than two years ago.

    Meanwhile, Denaburg, Rutledge, and House are still struggling to stay healthy in Low-A ball. Green had a nice FCL stint but faded late and was conspicuously left out of the season-end promotions last month.

    We didn’t have a first-round pick in 2013, and in 2012, we picked Giolito, and we all know how that story went. So that’s an entire decade now of drafting futility for the Nats. I don’t think I need to get into our history with second- and third-round picks, either.


    6 Oct 22 at 11:00 am

  17. Sao, I know you spent a lot of time looking at prospects in other organizations before the Soto trade. I did a little, and what hit me right between the eyes was how many of these organizations (including SD and STL as the main ones) had multiple guys drafted within the last two or three years who were already stellar prospects. Todd has written a lot about the Nats’ draft failures, which I have echoed here and at Nats Prospects. It’s basically a decade of total futility, leading to no wonder the big club has fallen apart. There’s just been no back-filling from within the organization.

    There are also the injuries. 2021 top pick: injured most of this season. 2020 top pick: ended season injured, 2d rounder probably out for next season too. 2019: struggled with injuries all of 2020 and still trying to re-find his groove. 2018: missed almost two seasons. 2017: injured every season. 2016: missed all of this season. Yes, bad luck happens. Once is an accident, . . . but EVERY year seems to indicate that the risky pick strategy isn’t working. Yes, it worked with Rendon and ultimately (on down the road) with Giolito. Fedde was on a TJ when drafted and made the majors, but the juice hasn’t been worth the squeeze. We need a new strategy.

    Well, actually we have a new strategy: taking toolsy top picks with contact issues. We’ll see how that works.


    6 Oct 22 at 6:54 pm

  18. And ding-dong, the $283M Mets are dead! So much for buying championships. Sorry Max, but you sold your soul to an evil empire with no heart. The Mets really screwed up dropping behind the Braves and into the wild card, although “dropping” to 101 wins isn’t exactly an embarrassment. But getting eliminated in the first round is.


    10 Oct 22 at 8:15 am

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