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MLB’s new rules made for improvements in game times and stolen bases in 2023

It was a much more watchable and enjoyable product on the field this year.

Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I’ve been writing much of the year about MLB’s new pitch clock (officially called “pitch timer”) and how much better it’s made watching baseball this year.

Now we have some numbers to back that up.

The average length of a game in 2023 was the shortest it has been in 38 years — since 1985 — by clocking in at an average of 2:39:49 per game. The average time for nine-inning games decreased by 24 minutes from 2022 and 30 minutes from 2021. This season there were only nine games (of nine innings) that lasted 3:30 or longer. Not one of those was a Cubs game; the longest nine-inning Cubs game was 3:18, July 26 at the White Sox. The longest nine-inning game at Wrigley Field was 3:15, May 28 vs. the Reds.

The Cubs played 37 games this year in 2:30 or shorter, and two of those in less than two hours, including the first sub-two-hour game at Wrigley Field since 2002, September 4 vs. the Giants. Last year the Cubs played just eight games in 2:30 or less. It’s a remarkable difference.

And even the games that ran a bit long didn’t feel that way. I can’t tell you how many games I attended this year that felt like they were dragging a bit, or with a lot of run scoring, and those still clocked in under three hours, where last year they would have been close to or over four hours.

All of this didn’t affect the game on the field — in fact, it made it better, with more action.

Scoring (9.2 runs per game in 2023 vs. 8.6 per game in 2022), stolen base attempts (1.8 per game in 2023 vs. 1.4 per game in 2022), stolen bases (1.4 in 2023 vs. 1.0 per game in 2022) and stolen base success rate (an all-time best 80.2 percent in 2023 vs. 75.4 percent in 2022) all are up over the previous season. Players recorded 3,503 stolen bases, the most since 1987 (3,585) and the second-most in the last 100 seasons. That’s also over 1,000 steals more than 2022 (2,486).

Nico Hoerner led the Cubs with 43 stolen bases (and seven caught stealing, an excellent 86 percent success rate). That total ranked fourth in the National League and was the most steals by a Cub since Juan Pierre had 58 in 2006, and is tied for 10th-most by any Cub (with George Grantham, 1923 and Kiki Cuyler, 1929) in the Modern Era.

Commissioner Rob Manfred and team owners can be criticized for many things, but they got it right with this year’s rule changes, including the pitch timer, restrictions on defensive shifts and the larger bases. The latter two are likely responsible for the stolen-base explosion.

In all, these rule changes made the game faster-paced with more action and scoring, overall a much-improved product. Kudos to MLB for getting this right.


Pitch timer...

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    (303 votes)
  • 3%
    (11 votes)
  • 5%
    (20 votes)
334 votes total Vote Now


Restrictions on defensive shifts...

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  • 74%
    (239 votes)
  • 10%
    (34 votes)
  • 15%
    (49 votes)
322 votes total Vote Now


Larger bases...

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  • 56%
    (180 votes)
  • 6%
    (22 votes)
  • 36%
    (118 votes)
320 votes total Vote Now