Baseball’s new rules are working. Congratulations to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. With the considerable assistance of former Red Sox and Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Manfred has modernized baseball to better fit our nation’s short-attention span culture.

I expected to see a faster-paced game with fewer gratuitous interruptions by stalling pitchers and hitters who waste time outside of the batter’s box, but the early results are something to behold. And a more stimulating competition is better because of it.

The pitch clock is speeding up play and giving runners an enhanced opportunity to steal bases. (The larger bases are part of that, too.) The restrictions on infield defensive shifts has increased the level of offense. There’s more motion and movement and a faster tempo that make the baseball-watching experience more enjoyable.

When I record a game to watch later in the evening, I no longer extend the scheduled time by 90 minutes. There are outliers of course, but these games zoom by. It isn’t as exhausting and frustrating to watch a game, wondering why the hell it takes 3 hours and 20 minutes to complete a 4-2 snoozer. MLB has returned to its more desirable form: more scoring, more action, more pleasure – but in far less time.

The Pitch Clock: In the first two weeks of the 2022 season, the average time of a nine-inning game lasted 3 hours and 9 minutes. So far in 2023, the average game time (through Monday) was 2 hours and 38 minutes. That’s a decrease of 31 minutes. Wow.

Restrictions On Shifts: Scoring is up. The single is making a comeback. Last season MLB teams had a combined .290 batting average on balls in play; this year it’s up seven points to .297.

Stolen Bases: Through Tuesday MLB teams had stolen 101 bases in 123 attempts for a success rate of 83 percent. Teams averaged 0.6 stolen bases per game last year, and that rate has jumped to 1.4 steals per game this season. And as The Athletic noted, there were only 57 stolen-base attempts through the first five days of 2022. This season: 100 attempts through the first five days.

Batting Average: .231 last April; .250 this April. An increase of 19 points.

Onbase Percentage: .307 last April, and .323 this April. An increase of 16 points.

Slugging Percentage: .369 last April and .413 this April.

OPS: .676 last April and .736 this April. That’s a spike of 60 points.

Runs Per Game: 4.28 (for the season) in 2022, and 4.6 runs so far in 2023.

Left-Handed Hitters: The defensive shifts affected LH batters more than RH batters and deflated the numbers for left-side hitters that pull the ball. In the first month of 2022, LHB had a .229 batting average and a .276 average on batted balls in play. So far in 2023, LHB are hitting .246 with a .290 average on batted balls on play.

Home Runs: They’re skyrocketing. Slugging has increased. The Isolated Power metric is 26 points higher this season than it was in 2022. And that’s a major boost.

In the opening month of 2022, MLB hitters homered every 36.3 at-bats.

In the first month this season, they’re cranking a homer every 26.7 at-bats. That’s significant.

Keep in mind that March-April tend to put a chill into offense, and the power numbers are usually lower at this time of year. But not this year. Early-season offense has heated up. Baseballs are flying over the walls.

So why would the new rules have so much impact on slugging and home runs? The plausible theory: pitchers can’t work at a leisurely pace. They can’t dawdle or delay to breathe in, breathe out and reset in between pitches.

The new rules prevent them from stepping off the mound as much as they want to, or throwing over to first base as much as they’d like. The pitchers have made an impressive adjustment to the clock, but they had no choice.

Pitchers have to feel more rushed now. They have to beat the clock. (It’s 15 seconds with the bases empty, and 20 seconds with a runner on base.) They may tire more easily during an inning. They probably find it more difficult to spend time thinking about what they should do next. There’s simply more pressure to deliver the next pitch.

With a runner on first base, pitchers can’t mess with the runner’s timing by holding onto the ball to freeze them. They’re allowed two “disengagements” per plate appearance. Pickoff attempts are one such disengagement. Other disengagements include fake pickoffs, stepping off the rubber, or when the catcher or another defensive requests time. Runners have a much better idea of what to expect from a pitcher now. That can only help them get a good jump and have more success on steal attempts.

There are many more layers to all of this — including how pitch-clock violations that result in an automatic ball called by the ump can give the hitter an advantage. But you get the drift.

The most prominent factor in the early home-run binging is something we’ve seen many times before: the engineered baseball. MLB is likely tinkering with it again. Metaphorically speaking these home-run balls have wings. In the past, Statcast has explained the factors that impact the “carry” of the baseball.

“The performance of the baseball is primarily driven by two factors: the coefficient of restitution (“COR”), which impacts the exit velocity of the ball off the bat, and the drag coefficient, which impacts how far a batted ball carries once struck.”

I suppose we’re seeing a lower drag coefficient.

A lot can happen over the next five-plus months, but MLB deserves praise for making the changes that have awakened a sleepy game. The home runs are on the rise again, but they’re just part of the offensive mix. Home runs were the game for a long time, and teams were overly dependent on them. But there’s more going on now, more ways to stimulate offense.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

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Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.