Stolen bases and batting average are up, game times down in first postseason with MLB's new rules

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Arizona Diamondbacks' Corbin Carroll steals second under Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott during the fifth inning in Game 7 of the baseball NL Championship Series in Philadelphia Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

ARLINGTON, Texas – Stolen bases and batting averages are up and game times are down in the first postseason with the pitch clock and larger bases.

There have been an average of 1.4 steals per game through the League Championship Series, up from 0.8 through last year’s LCS. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who play the Texas Rangers in the World Series beginning Friday, lead all postseason teams with 1.6 steals per game.

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“It's our identity now,” said Arizona's Christian Walker, tied for the team lead with four steals in 12 postseason games. “It's contagious. You want to be a part of it. You want to be in mix. You want to be out there creating chaos and havoc on the bases.”

The overall postseason batting average has climbed from .213 to .241, and the batting average for left-handed hitters has risen from .217 to .244 in the first year with defensive shift limits, although with the small sample size, any changes may be an aberration.

The average game time is 3 hours, 2 minutes, a decrease from 3:22 for nine-inning games during the first three rounds of the 2022 postseason and from 3:40 in 2021 through the LCS.

Just seven pitch-clock violations have been called through 36 postseason games.

Stolen base attempts are up significantly, rising from 1.1 per game to 1.6. The success rate has climbed from 77.8% to 84.5%.

For Rangers rookie Evan Carter, second on his team with three steals, the limit of two disengagements for a pitcher during a plate appearance has boosted steals. Once a pitcher has thrown over twice, a third pickoff without an out would result in a balk.

“Just the fact that in the back of the pitcher's head they know that I could be going just kind of messes with them enough to be able to kind of gain an advantage,” he said.

The postseason figures follow a regular season in which the average time of nine-inning games dropped from 3:04 to 2:40, its lowest since 1985.

MLB, over the objections of the players' association, instituted a pitch clock set at 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on base. The postseason average of one violation per five games was down from one per four games in the final month of the regular season, which overall averaged just under one per two games.

Changes included the introduction of 18-inch square bases, up from 15 inches, which reduced the distance between first and second, and second and third, by 4 1/2 inches.

The regular season included the most steals since 1987, and the 80.2% success rate was the highest in big league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.



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