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Elephant Rumblings: Second base is on the move due to new MiLB rules

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New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Happy Tuesday, Athletics Nation!

How far apart are the bases on a baseball field? 90 feet, right? Equal spacing between all bases makes it a consistent challenge to make your way around each side of the diamond.

Except that spacing for bases hasn’t been the correct 90 feet in MLB for over a century. For nearly as long as baseball has been baseball the infield has been disproportioned. Writing yesterday for The Athletic, Jayson Stark outlined how second base has been misaligned since the 1880s, and will be adjusted this season in the minor leagues, with the change coming to MLB in the future as well.

As further described in Defector by Barry Petchesky, the change in base-paths actually happened from an adjustment to first and third. The distances between bases that formed the infield diamond originally were measured from the centre of each base, this led to an issue as the corner bases were then both half in foul territory. If a batted ball landed on a either base it would be a judgement call from the umpire as to whether the ball was a fair hit or a foul ball. To resolve this issue, first and third were moved to be completely within fair territory. Eventually home plate was also moved in so it no longer covered any foul ground. But second base, which didn’t ever have the same foul territory issue never needed to be adjusted.

Starting this year across all levels of Minor League Baseball, second base will be moved in to match the rest of the infield. This is one of many changes that are being piloted in the minors before potentially being implemented into the majors. This won’t be a fundamental shift in the way the game is played, but there should be a slight offensive boost in the aggregate.

The change in position works out to make second base just over a foot closer to first and third, something that ever so slightly helps a runner sliding in to steal a base or leg out a double. It’s also that much further for an outfielder to throw the ball back in to as a target. Catchers also get a slight boost, as they’ll be that much closer to their target when throwing a runner out. Again, don’t expect a foot of base movement to cause a monumental shift in baseball, but do keep an eye out in the latter half of the year to see how it affects the minors.

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