Last year, the average runs scored per game in Major League Baseball (MLB) was 8.57. That was the lowest total since 2015. Offense was definitely taking a beating.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to do something about it. The sport implemented three new rules this year, two of which were specifically designed to help increase scoring.
Bases were made larger, cutting the distance between them by 4.5 inches. As a result, stolen bases are up to an average of 1.4 per game as opposed to 0.6. Stolen base success rate has gone up from 67.4 percent to 85 percent.
Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin told the Fulton Sun that players are going to take advantage of it.
“I think it’s in everybody’s mind, like, whoa, I can run more. And the more you run and you’re successful with it, the more you’re going to run,” Nevin said.
The other rule change that will help the offense is eliminating the infield shift. Over the first four games of the season, batting averages were .246, up from .230 for the same period last year.
While the offensive numbers have risen, it has not yet translated to sportsbook lines. Many operators were taking a wait and see approach and several said nothing has shown them that an adjustment is necessary.
In regards to the infield shift, Halvor Egeland, BetMGM’s lead baseball trader, told ESPN that there is no evidence yet that lines should be looked at being changed. He said between the infield shift and the new pitch clock, the two will cancel each other out.
“I think it’s going to be a little more offsetting than people realize, almost a wash,” Egeland said. “I don’t anticipate there to be less scoring overall, but on a game-to-game basis, it’s going to be very marginal.”
A lot was made of the implementation of a pitch clock this season. Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters must be in the batter’s box with eight seconds on the pitch clock.
Randy Blum, who oversees baseball odds for the SuperBook in Las Vegas, told ESPN that hasn’t been a factor.
“We don’t really see a direct correlation from the pitch clock to more scoring,” Blum said. “We were not planning on adjusting our totals off that.”
One issue that has moved a line is stolen bases. Most sportsbooks had a prop bet on the total of stolen bases by an individual. They set the over/under at 50.5. After the first four games of the season, however, Blum moved the line to 52.5.
“That’s one thing [larger bases] that we did adjust our numbers on based on the rule changes, and it seems to be something that the bettors are taking note of also,” Blum told ESPN. “That was not necessarily a prop that in the past would get a lot of attention either way.”
Three players already have four stolen bases. If they keep that pace, they should be able to hit the over easily.
One fan of the changes so far is the man who ordered them.
“We are extremely pleased with the early returns,” Manfred said. “Fan reaction has been positive to the brisker pace with more action. And players have made a great adjustment to the changes.”