What Baseball Bettors Must Know About MLB Rule Changes In 2023

Sharp bettors could benefit, especially early in the season


March 13

If 2023 MLB spring training has shown us anything so far, it’s that change is here.

There are three specific MLB rule changes that have been implemented this season: the pitch clock, defensive shift limits and bigger bases. The purpose of the changes is to pick up the pace of the game, keep the ball in play and encourage more action on the bases.

These changes have already made quite an impact on the game. We saw that in a late February game between the Red Sox and Braves. Atlanta shortstop Cal Conley was called out on strikes with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a tie game for a pitch clock violation. Spring training games don’t usually go into extra innings, so the game ended in a tie without a pitch being thrown in a full count.

For bettors, just imagine similar situations in the regular season — whether you’re on a side, total, strikeout prop, hits prop or anything similar — where losing a bet on such a call will be frustrating.

Here’s how bookmakers are expecting the MLB rule changes to affect the action — on and off the field — in 2023.

WynnBET senior trader Matt Lindeman thinks one recurring issue of the game could outweigh the effects.

“Most of (the rules) figure to increase ‘action’ and help generate more runs,” he said. “I would think there is an upward tick in scoring this season. With that being said, the ball has been incredibly inconsistent from year to year, and if MLB uses a dead ball that makes power hitting more difficult, it could negate some of the offensive advantages created by the rule changes.”

If run production doesn’t increase, there still will almost certainly be a boost in stolen bases, according to Derek Carty, creator of THE BAT X projection system.

“The defensive shift rules seem to have gotten the most press, but I think ultimately the impact of that will be pretty small,” he said. “More impactful will be the combined impact of the pitch clock, throw-over rules and bigger bases on steals.”

Whether it’s a futures bet on a player to be the stolen bases leader this season or just a single-game bet, the stolen base market may be unpopular with the public, but it’s one Carty expects to be worthwhile exploring this season.

“Stolen base props aren’t as sexy or popular as home runs, YES/NO run first inning, etc. but they are way more profitable for sharp bettors,” he says. “I’m really excited to see if we get an edge with the almost-certain boost in stolen bases we’ll see in 2023.”

BetMGM oddsmaker Halvor Egeland also believes game totals won’t be the biggest change this season, but rather the prop market as a whole.

“The data that is used to calculate projections is now somewhat flawed due to new defensive positioning and how a pitcher attacks each specific hitter as a result,” he explained.

“Even if across the whole league the numbers only marginally change, there will be some players that have a significant change in their production. Projecting that without data is a tough task and should provide bettors with an opportunity to find an edge early on.”

Like with any new changes, teams and players will take time to adjust. All we can do as bettors is continue to watch the game evolve and adjust our handicap accordingly. For now, it seems like keeping an eye on those spring training games to identify a potential edge in the prop market may be the best place to start this season.

Stats already show a significant increase in steals per game and batting average on balls in play so far this spring, so we should expect much of the same come Opening Day.

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Thumbnail photo via Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images

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