Stolen Bases EXPLODE Thanks To New Rules

With most of the attention on the pitch clock and the banning of the shift, the biggest impact of the slew of new rules introduced by MLB this season could very well be on stolen bases. Certainly, if Opening Day is any indication.

Compared to just five stolen bases on Opening Day 2022, there were TWENTY-ONE (21) on Thursday to open the 2023 season. And the success rate went from 56% (5 SBs in 9 attempts last year), to a whopping 91% (21 of 23 attempts successful) this year. 

There are two new rules that have come into play here, accounting for the explosion of stolen bases: 

1) New, larger bases (18 square inches, up from 15) have decreased the distance between 1st and 2nd base, and 2nd and 3rd, by four inches. 

2) Pitchers are only allowed two "disengagements" in an at-bat, which means only two throws over to first base to keep a runner close. After that, if a pitcher steps off and doesn't pick the runner off, he's automatically awarded a base. 

The Baltimore Orioles led the way with five stolen bases of their own, Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo swiping two each. 

Last season, teams attempted 0.67 thefts per game, resulting in 0.51 SBs per contest; on Opening Day 2023 that attempt percentage was up to 1.53, and the number of steals was up to 1.40 per game. 

If the idea was generating more excitement and more action, the new rules were a rousing success on Opening Day. 

Somewhere, Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman are enjoying this immensely.  

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports