Major League Baseball on Wednesday announced even more changes are coming to baseball next season that aim to speed up gameplay and keep fans interested in America’s favorite pastime. The new rules build off notable changes to the game that were introduced last year, including a pitch clock, which gave pitchers a limited amount of time to throw the next ball.
Changes include an even shorter pitch clock, a wider lane for runners going to first base, and more rules affecting pitchers.
A news release detailed the changes for the 2024 season that were agreed upon by the Competition Committee, which is comprised of six owners, four players, and an umpire. The committee was created as part of a 2022 collective bargaining agreement.
“From its inception, the joint Competition Committee’s constructive conversations between players, umpires and owners have produced rules that significantly improved the game for fans,” said John Stanton, Chairman of the Competition Committee and Chairman of the Seattle Mariners.
“These modifications will improve on last year’s work by the Competition Committee, which was a resounding success with our fans and for the sport.”
Here’s what changes are coming to the field in 2024.
The Runner’s Lane
The runner’s lane, which is the space a player is allotted to run to first base, will be widened in the upcoming season, expanding to include the dirt area between the foul line and the grass on the infield.
Widening the lane is intended to allow batters “a more direct path to first base,” according to the MLB, and also aims to limit interference in gameplay.
The distance between the foul line and the infield grass is now required to be between 18 and 24 inches in all MLB baseball parks.
The new rule overrides one from 1882, which stated that players were required to remain within the 3-foot box on the foul side of the base line while running the final stretch between home base and first base.
Building off the success of the 2023 changes, which were shown to reduce game time, the committee is implementing additional 2024 changes that will continue to increase the pacing.
Even one of the newest changes, the pitch clock, is also getting a refresh. Previously, pitchers had slightly more time when a runner was on base to throw the next pitch — a full 20 seconds, whereas they only had 15 seconds if no runners were on base. Now, pitchers will only have 18 seconds to throw the next ball with runners on base.
The pitch clock will also restart after a “dead ball” — meaning a ball that is out of play, such as a foul ball — when the pitcher gets the ball, when previously, the clock only began when the pitcher had reached the mound.
Visits to the pitcher’s mound will be reduced from five to four per game, with an extra mound visit awarded in the ninth inning if the defensive team has zero remaining at the end of the eighth inning.
“Mound visits rank among fans’ least favorite events in baseball,” according to MLB, who said that last season, 98% of games would not have exceeded a limit of four mound visits.
MLB is also implementing a new rule that states that any pitcher who warms up at the start of an inning must throw to at least one batter before being removed from the mound. According to the league, there were 24 instances in the 2023 season where a pitcher who warmed up between innings was replaced before throwing a ball, which added approximately three minutes of dead time per event.
Two of those instances were during the 2023 World Series.
Additionally, MLB withdrew a proposal that would have “required the home plate umpire to immediately reset the pitch clock after a batter called timeout,” said the league, citing player feedback.