When Major League Baseball announced four rule changes in early September, discussions consisted of positive and negative feedback depending on whether it was a position player or pitcher. Now that we’ve digested an offseason, teams are going into full adjustment with Spring Training less than a month away. Some like it, and some don’t, but this week there was discussion among a few Rangers players on their thoughts on whether it’ll benefit the game or not.
The pitch clock is likely the most noticeable change, as teams don’t shift on every single at-bat (most don’t). From a hitters’ perspective, Corey Seager says that it’ll take time to adjust, but similar to MLB’s change seven years ago with two-minute intervals between innings, players will get used to it. “I don’t get out of the box a whole lot once I’m in the at-bat. But I think it’ll affect some people,” Corey Seager told me. “It’s going to be an adjustment. It’s the same thing with the inning clock (two minutes). It was a big learning curve. You get accustomed to it; you get used to it as people come in; they’re already used to it. It becomes normal, but it’ll be a learning curve this year.”
A new career record for Corey Seager with his 27th home run of the season! 💣 pic.twitter.com/iXMsXwW2Vk
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As a shortstop defensively, having the clock along with the shift elimination improves the transition. However, pitchers can’t wait for their defensive alignment to set; the clock starts by the umpires, which can cause defenders to be out of place possibly. “Getting rid of the shift is going to be easier for us. We’re not going to be going across the infield,” Corey said. “Time won’t be as much of a factor, but you have to be diligent on that in between pitches in knowing where you’re going to be.”
From the catching side, Mitch Garver views the pitch clock as an advantage to the pitching side. “It’ll be nice to get the game moving along, guys will be able to get on the mound, and I think it works in your favor on the pitching side of it because you have that clock working against you, so you try to apply the pressure to the hitter,” Garver said.
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Brock Burke, who’s quick to the plate, says the clock shouldn’t be an issue, but the two clock reset (pickoffs or step-offs) could raise concerns. “I’ve always worked fast, and I’m always quick to the plate,” Brock Burke said. “Two pickoffs is a lot, but one thing that will be hard is considering stepping off is a pickoff or towards your count. You have to hope the hitter steps off first [or] you have to be more in tune with your catcher.” One aspect of the Rangers’ pitching staff is the starters are tenured veterans, with another veteran in Mitch Garver and Jonah Heim entering their third season. The younger relievers already worked with Heim and Garver in 2022, and Sam Huff has AAA experience with how the pitch clock and clock reset rules work.
For the shift ban, it works both ways. In Seager’s case, teams shifted him more than any player. That should change; however, Corey’s outlook is a glass-half-full and half-empty mentality. “I enjoyed the defensive side of it. I like the advantage you can get defensively on putting in the extra time, being diligent with your work, and your plan going into the game,” Corey said. “I enjoyed that aspect of it, but offensively it’ll be hard to complain.” I’m curious to witness how teams adapt to the lack of shifts. Remember, teams can still place infielders right on the imaginary line in the middle of second base. As long as two infielders are on one side and two are on the other, it’s legal.
The half mentality falls similarly to Brock Burke and pitchers. There’s frustration when a traditional setup would prevent a hit, when the defense shifts, and vice versa. However, when the shift takes away a hit, there’s a thought that it prevented a knock. So all-in-all, it may even out. That said, Brock told me that any new implementations are not going to stop teams from trying to play the system. “There’s going to be teams that find ways to cheat the system. Someone will cheat the system, and everyone else will adapt to it.” You can use that to describe all four rule changes coming in 2023.
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