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How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023?

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 9 mins

How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023?

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Bigger bases. 

A pitch clock. 

Ending the infield shift. 

Limiting pickoff moves. 

Major League Baseball Opening Day 2023 arrives on March 30 with several historic rule changes designed to produce more action on the bases, more balls in play, and “a crisp, more exciting game.”

Or so says Commissioner Rob Manfred

These changes coincide with the recent introduction of online sports betting in Maryland, as well as Ohio sports betting and Massachusetts sports betting since the end of the 2022 World Series. Fans this season will be able to legally wager from their phones inside 14 of 30 MLB ballparks. 

Even Pete Rose.


RELATED: Which MLB Ballparks Have Live Sports Betting?


The rule changes are widespread. And may well achieve their objective. Spring training games through March 28 took an average of 2 hours, 35 minutes to complete, according to data from MLB. That marks a 26-minute reduction from spring training 2022, when games were played without the pitch clock. Stolen base attempts were up 50.3% after the first 170 games. 

But scoring this spring is down compared to 2022. MLB teams averaged 5.743 runs per game after 488 spring training games in 2022. This year, that number has ticked down to 5.461 runs after 698 games played. 

'Bettors should be looking at props'

How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023? 6

So how will these changes affect MLB betting in 2023? 

Barstool founder and self-described “real gambling person” Dave Portnoy offers the following succinct guidance to bettors: “Hammer the early overs ‘til the line adjusts.” 

Others are a bit more nuanced. 

Johnny Avello wrote his first betting ticket on the Las Vegas strip nearly 40 years ago. At that time, there was no such thing as the AL or NL Central, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Colorado Rockies, or the Florida Marlins. Now the Director of Race & Sportsbook Operations at DraftKings, Avello said he cannot recall a baseball offseason with this many substantial alterations. 

“These changes are certainly going to help boost averages and guys on base, which turns into runs, so we're going to have to really pay attention to this,” Avello warns. “Our goal as oddsmakers is to figure out what it means.” 

Thomas Gable has been the director of the race and sportsbook at the Borgata resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey since 2018. 

His early-season advice is to avoid traditional wagers until the smoke clears. 

“Bettors should be looking at props when it comes to the new rules more so than the traditional moneyline, run line, and totals wagers. Look for season-long player props for guys who typically had a shift applied against them. Now that it is banned, those hitters should increase offensive production. Stolen base props will also increase with the limited moves to first base and the larger bases,” said Gable. “From an oddsmaker perspective I am going to be anxious to see how this impacts totals.” 

Given the importance that MLB has placed on these changes and the sizable amount of research and feedback that led to the changes, oddsmakers caution bettors not to swim against the tide. 

“Bettors should look for a faster pace and a more exciting MLB product on the field,” said Christian Cipollini, Sports Trader at BetMGM. “With the addition of these new rules, the main three things we will be paying attention to are totals, stolen bases, and hits," he added.

Keep An Eye On The Ball - Literally 

How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023? 2

WynnBET Assistant Director of Trading Matt Lindeman heads the book’s baseball desk. He cautions bettors to always keep their eye on the ball. 

Literally. 

“They’re really trying to cater toward moving away from what the game had become. They want more balls in play. They want more action. We’re probably going to see a ball that’s somewhat dead again because they want balls to be put in play, not hit over the fence. They want guys on base,” Lindeman said.

He believes the removal of the shift and addition of the pitch clock will heighten the stress level on both sides but says any net increase in scoring lies in the fine tuning of the Rawlings Official Major League Baseball used during games. 

“If they deaden the ball more than they have in the past years, then it might negate some of those changes,” Lindeman said. “We might not see a huge difference in the average number of runs scored every game, but I do think the style of play is going to resemble a lot more of what we saw in the 1980s and ‘90s, and what we see in college baseball and lower levels of baseball which is more action, more balls in play.” 

Don’t expect it to take too long before trends emerge and for oddsmakers to act accordingly. 

“These new rules will require players to adapt and adjust to the game, and, likewise, the sportsbook will adjust as well. Totals may see an early spike as the defense and pitching has less time to adjust, but we will be monitoring it closely,” advises BetMGM's Cipollini.

When Will Betting Trends Emerge?

How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023? 1

For WynnBET and Lindeman, the timeframe is one of days or weeks, not months. 

“You’ll see a shift in the market after about 3 or 4 days. And then, in Weeks 2 and 3 in April, you'll really start to see in terms of adjustment: ‘Is the ball dead or not?’ You have to adjust every year based on how many balls are going out of the park, average exit velocity, all these stats,” Lindeman said. “That’s going to be the big thing that’s not really going to change this year. You really don’t know what ball they’re going to roll out there. Maybe after a 50-game sample, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect moving forward.”

Avello sees a day soon when balls and strikes will be called by so-called “robotic umpires”. In the meantime, bettors need to consider who might be behind the plate when betting game totals or strikeout props. 

“In baseball, they make few changes because of the pure state of the game. This is a lot for one year. And the next thing that comes certainly is the robotic ump. That's going to be a whole other issue to discuss. Some umps out there have a wide strike zone and there are umpires that have a tight strike zone. Bettors bet sometimes based on the umpire behind home plate. We certainly look at that. With a robotic ump, it's in a box. That changes a lot of things.”

Baseball 2023 Rule Changes - Analysis

Here’s a breakdown of the rules changes coming for 2023. Gable understands their place in the game. “They are needed as baseball basically needs to do this to survive for the coming generations and to speed up the game,” he said. 

How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023? 3

Bigger Bases

The Change: Bases are now 18 inches square on each side, up from 15 inches last year. This will not change the 90-feet between bases since that is calculated from the center of second base and from the home plate to the back corner of first and third. Larger bases should cut down on injuries and collisions. The larger bases led to a 13.5% decline of “base-related” injures in the minors, according to MLB. With 4.5 more inches of space from edge to edge, MLB hopes to generate more attempted steals. 

Analysis: Avello advises to keep an eye on season-long stolen-base props early and wager accordingly, leaning on the upside. 

How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023? 4

The Pitch Clock

The Change: In 2022, MLB games lasted an average of 3:04:24. That was down by nearly seven minutes from 2021. But not enough. Baseball is pushing to get games done in less than three hours, for starters. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to begin their delivery when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when there are runners on base. Batters must be in the box and “alert” by the time the clock hits 8 seconds. Pitchers will be charged a ball and batters will be charged a strike with each violation. 

Analysis: “A lot of it is overdue, especially the pitch clock. Any way to speed up the game or make it more entertaining. It’s just a hard product to watch,” Lindeman said. “MLB is doing what they can to intervene and make it a more logical product. The changes are good. It’s hard to tell how much of an effect it’s going to have on things this early on.” Lindeman does not watch full games but may tune in for a few early innings to gather information on starting pitchers for future handicapping. “In terms of sitting there and watching a baseball game for 2 or 3 hours, I’m not going to do it.”

Gable added minor-league data has not demonstrated “a significant difference in runs scored” since the pitch clock was implemented. 

Pickoff Limitations 

The Change: Pitchers are allowed two moves off the rubber and/or pick-off attempts per plate appearance without penalty. The third time must result in an out or it will be called a balk. This combined with the larger bases should trigger a renaissance in stolen bases.

Analysis: “There are guys that are good at getting the lead, the biggest lead they can, and having the pitcher throw over to first. They're going to stretch these pitchers out. On the third time, they're not going to throw over and the guys are going to get a bigger lead. I see that as making a little more impact than the 15 or 20 seconds, at least at this point,” Avello said. 

How Will Baseball's New Rules Impact MLB Bettors In 2023? 5

Banning The Shift 

The Change: Goodbye, traditional shift. When a pitch is thrown, there must be two infielders on each side of the outside edge of second base – either on the infield dirt or grass. Any early movement or attempted skirting of the rules will result in a ball, unless the team at the plate chooses to accept the outcome of the subsequent pitch. Think a “free play” after a defensive offsides call in the NFL. For example, the players would move too soon but the subsequent pitch results in a bases-clearing double. The double stands. Players cannot change position during an inning unless there is a substitution or injury. Some teams, including the Red Sox, have shifted outfielders during spring training. That is allowed. 

Analysis: Portnoy is a fan of the new moves. “I love the pitch clock. Baseball needed to speed up the game. I think the bigger change will be banning the shift.”

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.