Baseball's 2023 season has a slate of new rules, all aimed at speeding up games
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
It's opening day for Major League Baseball. And when you watch on TV or at the ballpark, the game will definitely look different. New rule changes are being put in place, designed to speed up the action and create more scoring. Mark Gubicza was a World Series champ and a two-time All-Star pitcher with the Kansas City Royals. He's now in the LA Angels broadcast booth. Which of the two, the batter or the pitcher, has had to make the biggest adjustment so far?
MARK GUBICZA: A, that's a great question. I think - because most pitchers, especially some of the younger guys have been kind of doing this same thing in the minor leagues - their adjustment period is none at all. Veteran pitchers - maybe a little bit. But I think the hitters, to get in there and comfortable in the batter's box - you know, you're kind of trying to figure out what kind of pitch is going to be thrown to you. So you got to be in there, ready to hit, with eight seconds left as a hitter. And if you work quick, you have a good opportunity for your defense to make plays behind you, and you have less time to think about what you're going to throw. Just put that sign down and go.
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Don't think, just throw. Is it working, though?
MARTÍNEZ: I mean, is the game moving faster?
GUBICZA: There's been some trouble here and there, but for the most part, I think it's really helped out. I mean, you're seeing guys at a quicker pace. You know, just the energy level in the stands, on the field, in the dugout is way better. I think, in the end, it's going to work. At least MLB has been doing this since the first day of spring. So you've knocked off 30 games trying to adjust to it.
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. I know the minors shaved off almost 30 minutes from their game time, so that's definitely a quicker game. All right. Now to the rule change where you can't shift all your players in the infield to one side against a batter who tends to hit to that side. What was happening that Major League Baseball decided to ban that shift?
GUBICZA: Well, obviously, 'cause a lot of guys were trying to hit the ball over the shifts, that are hitting the ball in the air. When you're trying to hit the ball in the air, it creates more strikeouts. Teams were able to put not necessarily the best athletes in the infield like they used to have to do with limited range. I've never, in all my time, whether playing or broadcasting, have I seen so many incredible athletic players now in baseball. Now we're going to get to see it, I think - because everyone goes, why don't you hit the other way? Well, you know what? It's not easy to deal with when you're dealing with a hundred-mile-an-hour fastball or breaking balls with all this spin rate and all this other thing.
MARTÍNEZ: Now, the bases are going to be bigger by three inches. How will the game change now?
GUBICZA: Well, I mean, if you look at the data from spring training from this year compared to last year, there's many more stolen base attempts. So that tells me the guys that are going to be more apt - even though when you slide in there and - I think it shortens up by about six, seven inches, from going to first base, second or second to third. The more action you create, the better it is for the game, the better it is for the fans that are coming to the ballpark. Instead, it's waiting around for these three true outcomes which were homeruns, strikeouts, or a walk.
MARTÍNEZ: Baseball, Mark, has been a sport that almost takes pride in resisting innovation, resisting change. How necessary are these changes, and what's the end game for MLB?
GUBICZA: For whatever reason, the other sports have changed, evolved. Baseball, I think, finally realized if you want to gain a newer audience - and that's the younger generation where there's going to be more action - it was necessary. And think - I've always been a big believer, A, in - I think the best highlight to see and show - it's not a homerun. It's a great defensive play for me. So you're going to see that more. And a stolen base - that threat messes with pitchers, believe me. Rickey Henderson used to do that to me. It's going to make the offense better. The game is going to be quicker. You're going to see more runs and more action.
MARTÍNEZ: That's World Series champ and two-time All-Star Mark Gubicza. Gubie, thanks.
GUBICZA: Hey, appreciate it, man. Always great to talk to you.
(SOUNDBITE OG STAGE KIDS' "QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.