MLB Pitcher Disengagement Rules
In baseball, it is common for pitchers to routinely “disengage” from their main action of delivering the ball to home plate, and to instead throw the ball towards one of the basemen to try and throw out an opponent who is off-base.
In order to speed up playing pace, and to encourage steals, the MLB recently changed their rules regarding pitcher disengagement. Below, we will go over the new MLB disengagement rules, explain how they work, and discuss why they were implemented.
MLB Disengagement Rule
Starting in the 2023 MLB season, pitchers are limited to two disengagements per plate appearance. A pitcher can only attempt to pickoff or step-off an opposing player twice during an at-bat. The limit is reset any time that a runner or multiple runners advance during the plate appearance.
Prior to the addition of the 2023 disengagement rules, there were no limits on how often a pitcher could disengage while on the mound. A pitcher could try to pick off a player who had wandered off-base as many times as they wanted to in order to prevent a steal and secure an out. This often led to a lot of wasted time, according to baseball fans.
The new disengagement rules were added in an attempt to shorten and intensify baseball games as well as reduce player injury, which MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, argued were too long. However, they have been met with some pushback, including arguments that the rules are too restrictive, and that they disrupt the natural flow and fairness of the game.
MLB Disengagement Result
A balk will be charged to the pitcher if a third disengagement is made during a plate appearance and it does not result in a successful out. However, no balk will be charged if the third disengagement results in an out.
Disengagement Rules Summary
- Pitchers cannot attempt a pickoff or step-off the bag more than twice per plate appearance.
- Pickoffs and step-offs both count as disengagements.
- If the third disengagement results in an out, no penalty occurs.
- A balk is charged to the pitcher If the third engagement does not result in an out.
- The pitcher disengagement limit does not reset until a new plate appearance.
- Prior to 2023, there were no limitations on how many disengagements a pitcher could attempt.
What are the new MLB pitcher disengagement rules?
In 2023, the MLB added a rule that limited pitchers to two disengagements per plate appearance. This means that a pitcher can only attempt to pick off an opposing player or step off the rubber twice during a plate appearance. This limit is reset, though, any time that a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.
How many times can a pitcher disengage in baseball?
Under the new MLB disengagement rules, pitchers can disengage from the plate a maximum of two times per plate appearance, with their third disengagement being charged as a balk if there is no resulting out. Previously, pitchers were allowed to disengage as often as they wanted during plate appearances, but in 2023, the rules were changed to impose a limit in order to help shorten games.