MLB’s Rule Changes Are Paying Off a Month Into Season

The length of games is down while attendance and TV ratings are up

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias delivers on the mound.
Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias delivers in front of the pitch clock.
Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty

On Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, the modern-day Babe Ruth bashed a no-doubt home run to center field that traveled 413 feet and reached 162 feet above the diamond, the highest since Statcast started tracking in 2015.

There were 33,557 fans (80% capacity) on hand to see Shohei Ohtani hit his seventh home run of the season as the Angels beat the Brewers 3-0 to avoid a three-game sweep and, although they didn’t go home happy due to the home team’s loss, those in attendance did leave in a timely manner as the game took just two hours and 30 minutes to complete. Maybe not so sweet, but definitely short. Or at least shorter.

That’s been the trend a month into the season as MLB’s much-discussed rule changes — pitch clock, shift ban, larger bases, etc. — have led the length of games to drop from an average of three hours and five minutes in 2022 to two hours and 36 minutes in 2023.

Did MLB Overdo It With the Speed of the Pitch Clock?
With a weekend of official games under new rules in the books, some say that the contests are actually too fast

While traditionalists may not love the rule changes in MLB, they appear to be a hit with most fans as well as people who are happy to have 30 minutes of their lives back as attendance at games is up, according to Forbes. Led by seamheads flocking back to the ballparks in Philadelphia, New York and Seattle, overall league attendance is up 5% to an average of 26,753 fans per game compared to last year when it was 25,275.

Fans who aren’t going to games are tuning in from home in increased numbers, another indication that MLB’s rule changes have had their desired impact and made pro baseball into a more digestible product for viewers. “TV viewership for MLB games on TBS is way up so far,” according to Front Office Sports. “Game telecasts are averaging 304,000 viewers vs. 187,000 last year. That’s a 63% increase. TBS is also posting big gains in several advertiser-coveted viewer categories, including adults 18-49 years old (+26%), adults 25-54 years old (+30%) and kids/teens 2-17 years old (+40%).” 

With just one-fifth of the season in the books, it’s impossible to declare the rule changes a success or conclude that they are here to stay. But the early returns are promising to say the least and certainly indicate that fans like their baseball faster (even if some of the players don’t).

Having a superstar like Ohtani clubbing moonshots with ease and regularity certainly doesn’t hurt either.

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