Sports

MLB Fans Support Adding a Pitch Clock to Speed Up Games

More than half of fans say the rule changes, coming in 2023, will make MLB ‘better for new fans,’ according to a new survey

Photograph of Shohei Ohtani pitching
Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels pitches against the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 17, 2022. Baseball fans say they're ready for the game to be sped up with the introduction of a pitch clock next season. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

The 2022 MLB postseason begins in a few weeks, but the league is already looking to improve the product for 2023. New rule changes will make America’s pastime look different on the field next year, and a large segment of the league’s fans support the changes, according to new Morning Consult data. 

The changes, which include the implementation of a pitch clock and the elimination of the traditional defensive shift, aim to increase the pace of play and elevate the on-field action. Base sizes will also increase from 15-inch squares to 18-inch squares. 

New Morning Consult data shows the rule alterations appeal to many spectators, with more than half of MLB fans (52%) saying they either “strongly” or “somewhat” support starting a 15-second pitch clock between pitches when bases are empty and starting a 20-second pitch clock with runners on base (51%).

Forget Tradition: Avid MLB Fans Are Most Supportive of 2023 Rule Changes

The shares of respondents who said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” support the following rule changes for the 2023 MLB season:

Survey conducted Sept. 13-14, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,591 self-identified sports fans, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Survey also included 1,248 self-identified MLB fans and 409 self-identified avid MLB fans, with unweighted margins of error of +/-3 percentage points and +/-5 percentage points, respectively.

MLB fans clock in with thoughts on 2023 rule changes

  • A majority of self-identified avid MLB fans said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” support the league’s decision to add the aforementioned pitch clocks next season, along with a 30-second timer between batters.
  • More than 2 in 5 fans (44%) said they have seen, read or heard either “a lot” or “some” about the different pitch clocks, compared with 37% who were aware of the increase in base sizes — a change meant to decrease the number of collisions.
  • MLB fans were not quite as supportive of limiting the defensive shift, with 43% saying they are in favor of the rule, which requires that infielders be positioned on the infield’s dirt, and that two infielders must stay on each side of second base.
MLB Fans Want to Watch Games With a Pitch Clock

Respondents were asked how interested they would be in watching MLB games with a pitch clock used between both pitches and batters

Survey conducted Sept. 13-14, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.

MLB looks to inject more pace during games

  • About 3 in 5 MLB fans (62%) said they are at least “somewhat” interested in watching MLB with the use of a pitch clock between both pitches and batters, compared with about 2 in 5 U.S. adults (42%) who answered similarly. MLB fans, sports fans and U.S. adults all had the least interest in watching MLB games with increased base sizes, among the new rule changes. 
  • Nearly 3 in 5 MLB fans (59%) said they are at least “somewhat” interested in watching MLB with new limits on the traditional defensive shift, compared with half of sports fans and 39% of U.S. adults, respectively.
  • More than 3 in 5 MLB fans (65%) said the new rule changes will make the sport “faster,” while 53% said the rule changes will make MLB “better for new fans.”

Smart changes for MLB?

At the halfway point of this MLB season, 23 of 30 teams reportedly saw attendance declines compared with 2019. If the pattern persists throughout the remainder of the campaign, the league would see a drop in overall attendance for the fifth season in a row, excluding pandemic-affected years. As the new Morning Consult data suggests, though, MLB’s new rules could spark some new fan interest — and perhaps buck the recent decline at the turnstiles.

The Sept. 13-14, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, including 1,591 self-identified sports fans, each with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The survey also included 1,248 self-identified MLB fans and 409 self-identified avid MLB fans, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and plus or minus 5 percentage points, respectively.

Morning Consult