Major League Baseball saw a 9.6 percent increase in attendance in 2023 after instituting a series of new rules aimed at increasing the pace of play. And in terms of fans per game, MLB saw its largest increase in 30 years, from 26,843 per game in 2022 to 29,295 this season, an increase of 9.1 percent.
Overall, MLB drew 70,747,365 in attendance in 2023, marking the first time the league has reached the 70 million fan plateau since 2017, the commissioner’s office said.
A whopping 17 teams drew more than 2.5 million fans, while the Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees, Braves and Phillies all drew more than 3 million fans.
The reason for the improved attendance is a matter of debate, but it comes after the largest rule overhaul by MLB in recent history.
The average time of a nine-inning Major League game dropped to 2 hours and 40 minutes in the first year of the fielding clock, a decrease of 24 minutes in a season of change that resulted in a spike in batting average and most stolen bases over almost 40 years.
Chicago Cubs center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, 52, yells with fans
Orioles’ Adley Rutschman, front left, takes an at-bat as the pitch clock expires on the right
Left-handed hitters benefited from the new restrictions on defensive shifts, runners benefited from the slightly shorter distance between the bases and average fastball velocity set a new record.
The average playing time fell to 1985 levels, after passing three hours for the first time in 2016. In 2021, the average playing time reached a record 3:10, before the introduction of the PitchCom electronic pitch-calling device last year brought it down to 3:04. . Despite the players’ association’s objections, MLB set a pitch clock at 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on base.
“It took some getting used to, but once you get used to it, the game goes a lot faster,” Minnesota shortstop Carlos Correa said. ‘There is no time wasted. The pace was great, so I think this is here to stay.”
There were nine 3 1/2-hour games, down from a record 390 in 2021.
“I think it went smoothly,” Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith said. ‘It’s nice that you come home a little earlier. You don’t have four-hour matches anymore.’
Miami had the fastest average at just under 2:35, while Baltimore and San Diego topped the Majors at 2:44.
The MLB clock remains the same for the postseason, which averaged 3:23 for nine-inning games last year.
“There are bigger moments, bigger times where we have to take a step back and think about something we just did, or think about something we’re going to do pitch-wise or swing-wise,” said Zack Wheeler, founder of Philadelphia’s playoff opener Tuesday against Miami. “I’m not a big fan of the pitch clock, but it is what it is.”
Stolen bases increased dramatically in 2023 after the league expanded the bases
Phillies catcher JT Realmuto reflected on how to deal with the clock in October.
“We’re going to have to be a little more intentional about taking our time and maybe using our extra mound visits or finding ways to slow down the game for our pitchers,” he said.
As part of the clock, MLB instituted penalties for violations, including balls against pitchers and strikes against batters. The New York Mets led with 57 fouls, followed by Tampa Bay (52), Pittsburgh (51), San Diego (48) and Miami (47). Seattle had the fewest with 15.
The Pirates led in pitching offenses with 41, followed by the Yankees with 37 and the Mets and Rays with 36 each. The Mariners had the fewest with six. Washington led in hitting offenses with 17, one more than the Mets and Miami. St. Louis had just two, one fewer than Baltimore and the Chicago White Sox.
Philadelphia reliever Craig Kimbrel had the most individual fouls with 13, followed by Toronto starter Chris Bassitt with 12 and Johan Oviedo of the Pirates with 11.
Fans cheer after Orioles outfielder Austin Hays hit an RBI single against the Tampa Bay Rays
Washington’s Ildemaro Vargas led hitters with five.
There were only four violations of the shift rule, which required two infielders to be on the infield dirt on each side of second base when a pitch was thrown: one by the Dodgers, Mets, Padres and White Sox.
The Major League batting average rose from .243 last year to .248, which was the lowest since 1968. The average for left-handed hitters, who benefited most from the roster restrictions, rose 11 percentage points to .247, the highest in 1968. four years. The average for right-handed hitters rose two percentage points to .249.
The number of runs increased from 8.6 to an average of 9.2 per game and the number of stolen bases from 1.0 to 1.4 after the introduction of 18-inch square bases, an increase of 15 inches. That reduced the distance between first and second, and second and third, by 4 1/2 inches. The 3,503 steals were an increase from last year’s 2,486 and the highest number since 1987. The success rate of 80.2 percent was the highest in major league history and surpassed 75.7 percent in 2021, according to Elias Sports Desk.
The home runs increased from 5,215 to 5,868, but remained well below the record of 6,776 set in 2019.
The rise of the MLB occurred amid a wave of young talent, such as Seattle’s Rodriguez
Batters struck out 41,844 batters, up from 40,812 but down from the high of 42,823 in 2019, when they set a record for the 12th straight season.
Four-seam fastballs averaged 95 mph, up from 90 mph last year and 90 mph in 2015, the first year Statcast started tracking.
There were 3,880 pitches of 100 mph or more, up from 3,368 last year and 1,829 in 2021. Pitchers threw four-seam fastballs 32.2 percent of the time, down from 33.2 percent in 2022 and a Statcast-era peak of 36 percent in 2016.
Visiting teams scored 105-96 in overtime games in the first year. The rule that extra time began with a runner in second place was made permanent. Visitors have a 368-358 edge in overtime since the rule was first adopted as a pandemic change in 2020; from 2017-2019, home teams had a 312-294 edge.