Before the Major League Baseball season began (March, 2023), the Seton Hall Sports Poll found that fans embraced the new rules implemented for this season. In some cases, support from self-described fans, avid fans and Major League Baseball fans, was enthusiastic.
From Theory to Practice
Now, some two months into the season, the Poll again asked how the public felt about three rules in particular – the pitch clock, the larger bases, and the ban on overshifts. And in all cases, the approval response generally mirrored or improved upon the pre-season impressions.
These were among the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted last week among 1,509 adults across the country. The poll featured a national representative sample from YouGov weighted on U.S. Census Bureau figures for gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.
The approval rating for fans in general rose 3 percent to 62 percent and among MLB fans the approval rating stayed constant at 65 percent. There was, however, a slight drop (3 percent) for approval by self-described avid fans (now just 70 percent approval) of the pitch clock, which is largely credited for reducing game times by nearly 30 minutes.
“America’s Pastime is now passing less of it – and the end result could well be more fan engagement,” said Daniel Ladik, Marketing Professor in the Stillman School and chief methodologist to the Poll. “These numbers are compelling, and they’ve held from what was pre-season theoretical to actual in-season practice.”
“These rule changes were a major risk for Major League Baseball given a fan-base that is overwhelmingly steeped in tradition,” said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management within Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, which sponsors the Poll. “These approval numbers for the rule changes seemingly verify that MLB made the right call.”
Ban on Shifts
The ban on defensive shifts in the field were implemented to give hitters (especially left-hand hitters) a better opportunity for base hits. Acceptance of the ban is up slightly across the board from pre-season to in-season though the support overall is not as robust as the support for the pitch clock. The ban on shifts is favored by MLB fans by a 53-19 margin (remainder neither agree nor disagree). Among sports fans, that support drops to 49-18. Among avid fans, however, the support for the ban rises to 62 percent in favor with just 17 percent opposed – a more than 3 to 1 margin.
Much like the approval numbers for the pitch clock and the ban on defensive shifts, the increase of base size approval remained steady or increased from pre-season to in-season. The larger bases have led to more base stealing, and presumably less contact between runners and fielders. The size of the bases had not changed since Major League Baseball began in 1876. MLB fans support the change 57 to 14 in this most recent poll, which essentially mirrors the data from pre-season. Among sports fans 54 to 13 approved (remainder neither agree nor disagree), while avid fans approved by 65 percent to 10 – up 5 points since preseason and fairly categorized as overwhelming support.
Questions, breakdowns and additional charts may be found below; an online version of this release may be found at “Fans Favor Pitch Clock, Shift Ban and Larger Bases; Numbers Stay Strong from Pre-Season to In-Season“
About the Poll
The Seton Hall Sports Poll, conducted regularly since 2006, is performed by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. This poll was conducted online by YouGov Plc. using a national representative sample weighted according to gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography, based on U.S. Census Bureau figures. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been chosen for inclusion in iPoll by Cornell’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and its findings have been published everywhere from USA Today, ESPN, The New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and Reuters to CNBC, NPR, Yahoo Finance, Fox News and many points in between.