MLB Rule Changes A Hit On the Field, TV Ratings

  • Games ran 2:38 vs. 3:09 during the first 11 days of new season.
  • TV viewership, batting averages and stolen bases are up from last season.
MLB rules
Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
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During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he’s “thrilled” with the new rule changes transforming the Grand Old Game.

He should be. MLB’s controversial decision to install a pitch clock, widen the bases and ban defensive shifts appears to accomplish what the league and fans wanted. 

Namely, bigger TV audiences and shorter game telecasts, with more action on the basepaths, athleticism and offense.

  • The New York Yankees’ YES Network is off to its best viewership start since 2018. Heading into Monday night’s game, YES Network averaged 380,000 viewers, up 9% from last season. The Yankees’ 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday averaged 423,000 viewers.
  • MLB Network posted its most-watched Opening Day in its 14-year history. The network’s telecast of the Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants averaged 348,000 viewers, up 7% vs. the comparable time-period telecast in 2022. It was MLB Network’s best daytime showcase game since 2012.
  • Across MLB, the average game time was 31 minutes shorter over the first 11 days of the 2023 regular season. The average time for nine-inning games was 2.38 vs. 3:09 during the same period last season – and 3:04 by season’s end.
  • Batting average avengers were up to .249 vs. .233 during the first 11 games of the season and .243 by season’s end.
  • The end of defensive shifts appears to be helping left-handed and right-handed batters equally. The batting average for left-handed batters was .245 compared to .236 during the same period last year – and .247 by season’s end. Right-handed batters are hitting .253 vs. .236 during the same period the previous season and .247 by the season’s end.
  • Stolen bases are up too. During the first 11 days, teams averaged 1.3 stolen bases per 1.7 attempts for a 79.6% success rate. During last season, teams averaged 1.0 stolen base per 1.3 attempts for a 74.0 success rate.
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  • Players and managers appear to be adjusting to the new rules. There were only 125 violations called during the first 141 games or 0.89 per game. The majority (68%) were pitch timer violations by pitchers. Pitch timer violations by batters came in second (25.6%)

The pitch clock has proven so popular that both MLB, and it’s 30 clubs, are starting to field lucrative sponsorship offers.

Manfred notes MLB could still tinker with the rules as the season progresses. But early results this season indicate the changes are a home run.

“We’re thrilled with where we are. We really are,” Manfred told ABC. “Hats off to our players. They’re great athletes.”

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