The major leagues face a big change in the 2023 season. Pitching time, restrictions on ball control, abolition of defensive shifts, etc.
Experts point out that this rule revision is a huge change comparable to the lowering of the mound in 1969 and the introduction of the designated hitter in the American League in 1973.
MLB had a mound height of 38.1 cm until 1968. However, when St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson’s ERA marked a record-breaking 1.12 in 1968, he lowered his height to 25.4 cm in 1969. Even now, it is 25.4 cm. It is a solution to the contribution. American League Cleveland Indians Louis Tiant’s ERA was also 1.60. The designated hitter was first introduced by the American League in 1973, and implemented by the National League in 2022. Currently, all major leagues are subject to the DH rule.
The rule change for the 2023 season is a measure for the spectators. MLB competes with major U.S. sports such as professional football (NFL) and professional basketball (NBA) for ratings. While young fans stretched their game time like candy, middle-aged fans expressed their dissatisfaction with the extreme defense shift, which is far from the orthodoxy of baseball. Broadcast ratings continue to decline.
The pitching time limit is whether pitchers adapt to long intervals. Closer Kenley Jansen, who moved to the Boston Red Sox this offseason, has the longest interval. Abolishing the shift is a gospel message for left-handed hitters who pull extremely hard. The defensive shift started with the left batter. In 1946, Cleveland Indians coach Lou Bodraw used the shift when Boston Red Sox left-handed hitter Ted Williams at bat is considered almost the beginning. That’s why it’s called ‘shift to the board’.
Seager played in 151 games in the 2022 season, his first year at Texas. It was the most appearances since 2016 (157 games). His home runs were the all-time high and team-high 33 with 83 RBIs. However, his batting average dropped to 0.245 (593 at-bats/145 hits). The MLB Network pointed out that Seager lost 20, the most by an MLB hitter due to a shift. If 20 leads to hits, the batting average jumps to 0.278.
For reference, the hitter who maintained the highest batting average in shift situations with more than 100 at bats in the 2022 season was Jeff McNeil, second baseman for the New York Mets in the National League. He scored 0.364 in shift. In second place is Chris Bryant of the Colorado Rockies with a 0.354. McNeil, who won the batting title with a batting average of 0.326 in 2022, is a left-handed hitter and Bryant is a right-handed hitter.
Texas has greatly strengthened its starting lineup, including offseason aces Jacob deGrom, Nathan Ibaldi, and Andrew Haney. The 2023 season of Seager, who became a franchise player at an expensive ransom, is noteworthy.