Jorge Mateo couldn’t contain the smile as he sat in the dugout at Rogers Centre, thinking about how large of a difference 4 1/2 inches might make.

When he takes off on a steal attempt next season, the larger bases — one of a handful of Major League Baseball rule changes set to take effect next season — reduce the distance between the bags. With base size increasing from 15 inches-by-15 inches to 18-by-18, the distance between the bags shrinks by 4 1/2 inches.

Mateo is a hand-length closer than he was before, without even taking a step. And considering he’s slid in safely on 30 of his 38 stole-base attempts this season, he hardly needs an assist.

“Oh my God, it’s like 20 more bases,” Mateo said, relishing the idea. “I love it.”

The exact ramifications of MLB’s decision to increase the size of the bases remains to be seen, but in theory — and in the minds of Mateo and Cedric Mullins, two of the best base stealers in baseball — the prospect should lead to more steals.

With more restrictions on how many pickoff throws pitchers are allowed, as well as the introduction of a pitch clock, there are multiple factors being introduced that could lead to an increase in activity on the bases. For the Orioles, with two 30-plus steal players in Mullins and Mateo, the benefits could be especially noticeable.

“We have instant replay now, the game has always been a game of inches, and it looks like there’s a full more being added on the bases,” Mullins said. “I think it’s going to open the floodgates in that aspect.”

Larger bases should also be safer, with potentially fewer collisions between players at first base. But if it can be an advantage for Mullins — whose 31 steals lead the American League — he’ll take it.

In addition, pitchers will be allowed two disengagements with the rubber during each plate appearance, limiting them to a combination of two step-offs or pickoff attempts. Should a pitcher attempt a third pickoff, the runner will automatically advance if the attempt isn’t successful.

“Once you get to two, going on three, you might get a few more steps lead just to see if they’ll pick over,” said infielder Gunnar Henderson, who experienced the pitch clock and pickoff rules in the minor leagues this season.

In 2019, there were 2.23 steal attempts per game in the majors, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


MLB rule changes could lead to more stolen base attempts. The Orioles are ready to adjust.

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