Automated ball judgment systems (ABS), also known as robot umpires, will be officially introduced when the 2024 season of Major League Baseball begins. Starting next season, “shifts,” or changes in defensive position, will be limited and bases will be larger, just like in Major League Baseball (MLB). However, the introduction of a pitch clock to throw the ball within the time limit and a penalty shootout to eliminate ties will be discussed at a later date.
The KBO held its first board meeting of 2024 on March 11 at the Baseball Hall in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, and confirmed the order and timing of the league’s new system. The board decided to introduce ABS at the start of the regular season on March 23 to ensure fairer officiating. Bases will also increase in size from 15 to 18 square inches, which will be implemented in conjunction with ABS. MLB increased the size of the bases to prevent player injuries, increase stolen bases, and promote a more dynamic game of baseball.
The Board of Governors also decided to limit defensive shifts to help infielders play better defense and encourage more aggressive hitting. MLB requires a minimum of four players in the infield, excluding the catcher and pitcher of the defending team, with two players on each side of second base. The KBO is expected to follow the same rule.
However, the pitch clock, which was introduced to shorten the game time, will be piloted in the first half of the season before being implemented in the second half. The pitch clock, which sets a time limit but has no penalties for violating it, has been delayed. MLB has a rule that pitchers must pitch within 15 seconds with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners in scoring position, which has led to shorter games.
Limiting “one-pitch relief,” in which a pitcher takes the mound for a single batter, will be introduced in the Futures League for the new season to see how it works out before it is rolled out to the first team. Extra innings, which will be implemented in the Futures League starting in 2022, will also be discussed at a later date.
The Board also revised the rules for multi-year contracts with players who are not free agents. Players on multi-year contracts will no longer be eligible for free agency during the term of the contract, and free agency will only be granted to players whose contracts are scheduled to end in the current year. Clubs can apply for approval of a multi-year contract for a non-FA player at any time, and the contract must be submitted to the KBO by the day after the announcement, and the KBO will publish the contract the next day.
It also prevents the payment of merit (bonus) outside the scope of the current rules. This means that managers, not clubs, are prohibited from giving bonuses to players out of their own pockets. However, the rules have been changed to allow teams to award the MVP of the Korean Series separately if they submit a business plan to the KBO before the season and get approval.