Perhaps not since 1969, when the pitcher’s mound was lowered 5 inches and the strike zone squeezed, have Major League Baseball rules changes had the potential to impact individual players so dramatically as the ones being put in place this season.
There are three changes that will get the attention of fans, players and Michigan sports betting customers alike: A pitch clock to encourage pitchers to work faster in hopes of shortening game times; an increase in base size to make the game safer for runners and fielders, and a limit on infield shifts to return the defensive landscape to a prior state of traditional normalcy.
All of these rules will have an impact on how the games are played and on player statistics. As a frame of reference, those 1969 rules changes were designed to help offenses. And it worked: The combined league-wide batting average rose from .237 in 1968 to .248 in 1969 and then to .254 in 1970.
In addition to our analysis of individual Tigers players who might be affected by the new rule changes, it’s worth wondering how it will affect the team as a whole. Detroit, coming off of a 66-96 season in 2022, has +12500 odds to win the World Series this year, according to BetMGM Michigan Sportsbook.
What Are Big 2023 MLB Rules Changes?
Going into 2023, naturally, some players are enthusiastic about the changes and others are less so.
With baseball’s spring training underway, BetMichigan.com used BaseballSavant.MLB.com and FanGraphs to determine the players on the current Detroit Tigers roster that will be the most affected by the three biggest rule changes in the MLB this year.
Here are the Tigers who are likely to be most impacted, either for the better or the worse.
Starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull will have to speed it up on the mound. Turnbull was measured to have 9.95% of his pitches fall into category of “slow tempo pitchers” in 2021, his most recent season (he was out injured in 2022). Similarly, coming out of the bullpen, Jose Cisnero was found to have 8.70% of his pitchers fall into the “slow tempo” range in 2022, according to the BaseballSavant site.
The new rules says that pitchers have 15 seconds between receiving the ball from the catcher and the start of their delivery with the bases empty. Pitchers get 20 seconds with runners on base.
Those using Michigan sportsbook apps to place wagers might do well to monitor these pitchers, especially early in the season.
Tigers Pitchers Most Affected By Pitch Clock
Bases Made Bigger
Base size is an interesting rule change. Meant to cut down on runners and fielders getting tangled, the larger base pillows are 18 inches square, up from 15 inches square.
A bigger base means fewer collisions but also more base steals, a shorter distance between bases including from home to first. Perhaps, bunting for a base hit will come back as a more common skill.
The Tiger most likely to profit because of his sprinter’s speed is outfielder-first baseman Matt Vierling. Vierling has just nine bases stolen in 151 Major League games. But with the bags larger and the distance between bases reduced, Vierling, with sprint speed of 29.6 feet per second, will have more chances at both infield base hits and stolen bases.
At Caesars Sportsbook Michigan, the Tigers are +2500 to win the American League East.
Defensive Shifting Limited
Meanwhile, outfielder Austin Meadows is the Detroit player most likely to be impacted by imposing shift limitations. Meadows, obtained in a trade with Tampa Bay in 2022, saw 75.2% of his plate appearances last season go up against the shift. Meadows’ wOBA against the shift in 2022 was .315.
The offensive statistic wOBA is “weighted” on-base percentage, and it measures not just that a batter reached base, but it includes in the calculation how he reached base, so that a double would be worth more than a single in the wOBA formula.
Going into his sixth season and second with Detroit, Meadows is a lefthanded hitter who batted .250 in 147 plate appearances last season. Having played three-plus seasons with Tampa Bay, in terms of power, Meadows had big years in 2019 (33 home runs) and 2021 (27 HRs). As a pull hitter, Meadows likely would benefit, especially in batting average, from the holes created by defensive shift restrictions.
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