In attempt to hasten the pace of play, shorten games, increase action on the bases and offer a more visually familiar style of play, Major League Baseball is attempting multiple rule changes at once. The goal is a more athletic game with less stagnant time, and when the dust settles MLB hopes to see more steals, too.
SO LONG, SHIFT
Two infields must be positioned on either side of second base at the time a pitch is released, and all four infielders must have their feet on the dirt. This outlaws the overloaded shift that often would put a second baseman in shallow right field or three infielders on either side of the base.
There are no rules governing the placement of the outfielders in part because Major League Baseball wants to invite the risk-reward of leaving an outfield area uncovered.
HELLO, PITCH CLOCK
Pitchers and hitters are on the clock between every pitch. With the bases empty there is a 15-second clock.
— Batters must be ready to hit 8 seconds into it.
— Pitchers must be in their windup before 15 seconds.
Violations of the pitch clock by the hitter results in an automatic strike, by the pitcher an automatic ball. There is a 30-second clock between hitters. The pitch clock with runners on base is 20 seconds. The hitter has one timeout per plate appearance. The pitcher can disengage from the pitching rubber to reset the clock.
REDUCED PICKOFF ATTEMPTS
Pitchers are limited to two disengagements per plate appearance, and that applies to pickoffs. If a pitcher attempts two pickoffs and is unsuccessful, then the pitcher must get the baserunner with the third attempt or be called for a balk. That awards the runner the next base.
The goal is to help spur the running game and, after two pickoff tries, encourage the runner to take that larger lead.
First, second, and third bases have been increased from a 15-inch square to an 18-inch square. That reduces the distance between first and second and second and third by 4½ inches.
The goal is to reduce the time it takes for runners to cover that ground and thus force teams to recalculate the risk of trying to steal bases — and try it more often. The larger bases also create more room for players to avoid injury.