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What pitches are banned in MLB?

What pitches are banned in MLB?

There are a large number of rules that apply only to the pitcher, and nearly all of them apply only when the pitcher is in contact with or astride the pitching plate (the «rubber»). When there are runners on base, these actions result in a balk. When there are no runners on base, most (but not all) of these actions result instead in an illegal pitch.

Pitching prohibitions

​Illegal pitches and «pitching prohibitions» are covered in Rules 6.02(b) and 6.02(c)(1-9):

6.02(c)(1): First, the pitcher may not touch the ball after having touched his mouth or lips unless he first wipes his hand dry before touching the ball. This applies within the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher’s plate (that is, while on the mound). Second, while in contact with the pitcher’s plate, the pitcher must not even touch his mouth or lips.

  • Exception: In cold weather, with agreement of both managers, you may allow pitchers to blow on their hands while on the mound.
  • Penalty: Remove the ball from play and warn the pitcher. If the pitcher does it again, call an illegal pitch and award a ball to the batter.

6.02(c)(2) : Pitcher may not spit («expectorate») on the ball, either hand, or the glove. The umpire has some discretion in judging intent, so that he may issue a warning instead of ejection on the first violation.

6.02(c)(3) : Pitcher may not rub the ball on his glove, clothing, or on himself. He may only rub the ball with his bare hands.The umpire has some discretion in judging intent, so that he may issue a warning instead of ejection on the first violation.

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6.02(c)(4) : Pitcher may not apply any foreign substance to the ball. This goes beyond the «expectorate» prohibition and applies to anything at all (including dirt).

6.02(c)(5) : Pitcher may not deface the ball (cut, scratch, or in any way alter the natural state of the baseball).

6.02(c)(6) : Pitcher may not deliver a ball that’s been altered in any way. This covers the scenario where the catcher or other member of the team alters the ball. If a ball is badly scuffed due to normal wear and tear, the pitcher may request a new ball from the umpire.

6.02(c)(7): The pitcher may not have on his person any foreign substance. Just having posession on the field of an illegal substance is sufficient to draw a penalty. (Rulebook comment: «The pitcher may not attach anything to either hand, any finger or either wrist (e.g., Band-Aid, tape, Super Glue, bracelet, etc.). The umpire shall determine if such attachment is indeed a foreign substance for the purpose of Rule 6.02(c)(7), but in no case may the pitcher be allowed to pitch with such attachment to his hand, finger or wrist.»)

6.02(c)(8): The pitcher may not intentionally delay the game by throwing the ball to players other than the catcher while the batter is in the box and ready to bat, except when this is a legitimate attempt to retire a runner on base. Warn the pitcher, and if it continues, you may eject the pitcher.

6.02(c)(9): The pitcher may not intentionally pitch at the batter. If you suspect the pitcher of intentionally throwing at a batter, you may warn the pitcher, or eject, if warranted. You may also, if appropriate, eject the team manager. You may also apply an «official warning» to both benches, such that subsequent instances will result in ejections of pitchers from either team.

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Penalty for an illegal pitch

The pitch shall be called a ball. If a play follows the illegal pitch the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire of a decision to decline the illegal pitch penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter hits the ball and reaches first base safely, and if all base runners advance at least one base on the action resulting from the batted ball, the play proceeds without reference to the illegal pitch.

Important: Even if the team elects to take the play, you still recognize the infraction and appropriate penalties should be applied.

NOTE: A batter hit by a pitch shall be awarded first base without reference to the illegal pitch.

Pitch clock, defensive shift ban, larger bases coming to MLB in 2023

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Major League Baseball’s competition committee voted Friday to adopt three new rules that will be in place for the 2023 season — A pitch timer, banning defensive shifts, and larger bases.

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, MLB’s competition committee was reconstituted to include representatives from the league office, active players, and an umpire. A majority is needed to implement rules, and the players voted against banning the shift and a pitch clock.

“Player leaders from across the league were engaged in on-field rules negotiations through the Competition Committee, and they provided specific and actionable feedback on the changes proposed by the Commissioner’s Office,” the MLBPA said in a statement. “Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern that Players raised, and as a result, Players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against the implementation of the rules covering defensive shifts and the use of a pitch timer.”

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Pitch timer

The pitch clock has a few notable aspects. Pitchers must begin their motion within 15 seconds of the previous pitch when nobody is on base, and will have 20 seconds between pitches if anyone is on base.

As a way to prevent a workaround of simply throwing to first base to reset the clock, there is now a limit of two pitcher disengagements — even stepping off the rubber — per plate appearances. Each subsequent disengagement results in a balk, with a caveat. Pitchers are still allowed to disengage a third time during a plate appearance, and if their pickoff attempt is successful the runner is out. But if the move is unsuccessful, a balk will be called.

Should a runner advance to another pace, the disengagement counter resets for that plate appearance.

As you might expect, this will lead to more stolen base attempts. MLB, using data from the minor leagues, where this was tested this season, says stolen base attempts increased from 2.23 per game at a 68-percent rate in 2019 to 2.83 attempts at a 77-percent success rate this season.

Hitters are also subject to the pitch clock. They must be “in the batters box and alert to the pitcher” with eight seconds remaining. Hitters get one timeout per plate appearance.

MLB says in the minors, the average nine-inning game decreased from three hours, four minutes in 2021 without the pitch clock, to two hours, 38 minutes this year with it.

New on-field rules instituted beginning with the 2023 season to create more game action and improve pace of play:

— MLB (@MLB) September 9, 2022

Bye bye shift

Beginning in 2023, teams will no longer be able to load up infielders on one side of the infield, nor will they be able to use four outfielders.

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The two rules in place to prevent this are that two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base at the time the pitch is released, and all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield (e.g. on the dirt) when the pitcher is on the rubber.

This was tested in Double-A in 2021 and 2022, and at both Class-A levels this season. J.J. Cooper at Baseball America dug into the data in the minors and found, “But so far there has been little evidence that it leads to higher batting averages on balls in play (BABIP) in the minors.”

This will bring a fundamental change to how the Dodgers play defense. They shift at over half of all plate appearances — 51.7 percent — while on defense, second in the majors this season. It’s helped them turn batted balls into outs, and helped fuel a pitching staff that over the last four seasons have allowed the lowest on-base base percentage in major league history.

Data is king for the Dodgers, who will, like every other team, have to adapt. As Mookie Betts said during last Sunday’s ESPN broadcast regarding the defensive positioning card every Dodger has in their back pocket, “It’s hard to argue with computers. For the last few years I tried it, and they won.”

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Bigger bases

The bases at first, second, and third base are increasing from 15” inches square to 18” inches square. The driver for this was player safety, and was agreed to by all parties. The competition committee vote on this was unanimous, says Jeff Passan at ESPN.

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In announcing these rules changes, Major League Baseball also announced a multi-year agreement with PitchCom, which teams have been using on a voluntary basis this season to communicate between pitchers, catchers, and other teammates in lieu of hand signs for pitches.

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