2022 Major League Baseball

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The 2022 Major League Baseball season was the twenty-third season in which the two major leagues, the National League and the American League, were consolidated into a single entity under the authority of the Commissioner, Rob Manfred.

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The lead-up to the season was dominated by one off-field event, the 2021-2022 lockout decreed by MLB owners on December 1st after the failure of talks to renew the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expired on that date. This brought a screeching halt to an off-season that had been marked by lavish free agent signings that seemed to undermine the owners' contention that baseball's financial picture was shaky. There was little movement until mid-January when the two sides started meeting intermintently, and by early February, the lack of progress made it very likely that the start of spring training, at the very least, would be delayed, and possibly Opening Day as well. In fact, an agreement was only reached on March 10th, pushing the date of Opening Day by one week, from March 30th to April 7th - although the integrity of the 162-game season was preserved. The settlement brought in two major rule changes: the universal designated hitter (something that had been used in 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic); and an expanded postseason comprising 12 teams, with the two top division winners receiving a first-round bye. Doubleheaders also reverted to consisting of two nine-inning games, and while it was originally reported that the tiebreaker for games going to extra innings would also be dropped, this was not the case - at least for the current year. In addition, rosters were expanded to 28 players for the month of April, to counter-act the effects of the compressed spring training. Once rosters went back down to 26 on May 2nd, teams would not allowed to carry more than 13 pitchers - a limit that had been proposed before the 2020 season but that was never implemented due to that year's unusual circumstances (in reality, this measure was delayed by a few more weeks before coming into effect). Finally, just before the start of the season, MLB approved the use of the wireless PitchCom system as an alternative to catchers giving signs with their fingers; the system was successfully tested during spring training and met with immediate approval.

While a lot of people wanted to put the pandemic behind them, it was still a going concern when spring training opened, even if cases were dropping just about everywhere in North America. Of particular interest were rules put in by authorities in Canada and New York City: it was still not possible for unvaccinated travelers to enter Canada from the United States, with no exception for ballplayers heading to Toronto, ON for a short series; and NYC was still preventing unvaccinated persons from accessing a number of public facilities, including entertainment complexes such as ballparks, again with no exceptions granted. Both measures were likely to make it complicated for players who had refused so far to get vaccinated. New York did create an exception for athletes and entertainers before Opening Day, but Canada's measures remained in place when play finally resumed on April 7th. As MLB picked up the schedule that was already laid down for that day, there were just nine games scheduled (it had tried in recent years to start the season with a full 15-game slate of games) and two of them were rained out, but the remaining seven provided plenty of action and historical moments.

The major stories in April were low hitting numbers and complaints about the baseball. Early numbers made some observers think that baseball was entering a new "Year of the Pitcher" as batting averages were rivalling those of the notorious 1968 season: in early May, the two leagues' collective batting average was just .233. However, in 1968, the low numbers had been achieved over a full year, whereas this year, the low numbers were compiled over the first month only, a time when hitting numbers are usually low due to weather. Indeed, they began to adjust upward in May, but remained low. The issue of the baseball was more complex, as there were two types of complaints: hitters were saying that the ball was "dead", i.e. that it would not fly as far and as fast as it had in previous years, reducing power numbers, while pitchers were saying the ball was too slick and that this was affecting their grip on it (now unaided due to the banning of "spider tack" and other such substances in 2021). The most direct result of this was a higher number of hit batsmen, which in a few instances ignited some bench-clearing brawls (although there were no real violent incidents).

Offensive numbers crept up as the weather warmed, at least in terms of homers and runs scored - batting averages remained low. In June the Commissioner's office issued an instructional video directed at all clubhouses explaining how to rub new baseballs in a consistent manner in preparation for their use in games, an acknowledgement that the problems about which pitchers had complained had some basis. Some rules that had been sidelined by the pandemic also became effective: for the first time, a manager was prevented from using a position player as a pitcher because the situation did not meet that described in the rule adopted before the 2020 season but not implemented, and teams had to send down some extra pitchers as limits on the number of pitchers on the roster (13 of the 26 players) finally went into effect.

For the first time in years, there was an increase in balls put in play during the season (119,052 compared to 115,761 in 2021). Some of that was attributable to the ball being slightly deadened, something confirmed by Statcast as the average distance traveled by balls based on exit velocity decreased slightly, with more fly balls in play as a result. Batting average on fly balls in play also increased, due to hits that would have been home runs in previous years becoming doubles and triples. As a whole, batting averages went down, but by a trivial amount (less than .001) and probably largely due to the poor early numbers mentioned above. With the adoption of the universal DH, the number of bunts collapsed, from close to 1,600 to just over 1,100, but there were more bunt hits as the strategy was used more often to beat a defensive shift than to advance a baserunner.

MLB announced a number of rule changes for 2023 before the season ended, but even without those the average game time dropped by a whopping six minutes compared to 2021, to 3 hours and 3 minutes. This was largely credited to the use of PitchCom.

Six major league teams were assessed luxury tax payments for overshooting payroll limits during the season. The Los Angeles Dodgers led the way, as they were assessed a tax of $32 million, getting an additional penalty as repeat offenders, ahead of the New York Mets, who actually had a higher payroll but landed on the list for the first time in team history with a penalty of $30.8 million. Also penalized were the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox, but in all four cases the penalty was below $10 million. The increased penalties came in a context in which total payroll increased by 12% in 2022, up to a record $4.56 billion.


Brock Ballou was the only umpire to make his major league debut in 2022, and the first to do so since 2020.

Further Reading[edit]

  • "New rules for '22 to affect 2-way players, extra innings", mlb.com, March 31, 2022. [1]
  • "7 facts that made Opening Day one to remember", mlb.com, April 8, 2022. [2]
  • "Midterm reports: Assessing each team at the break", mlb.com, July 20, 2022. [3]
  • Nick Aguilera: "Report: 'Ohtani rule' among potential '22 changes", mlb.com, March 22, 2022. [4]
  • Associated Press: "MLB average game time drops 6 minutes ahead of pitch clock", Yahoo! News, October 6, 2022. [5]
  • Ronald Blum (Associated Press); "AP Exclusive: Dodgers taxed $32M, MLB payrolls record $4.5B", Yahoo! News, January 18, 2023. [6]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Let's go! Everything to know for the season ahead", mlb.com, April 6, 2022. [7]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "22 bonkers stats from the ’22 season", mlb.com, September 22, 2022. [8]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Numerous indicators show youth MLB fandom is on the rise", mlb.com, October 3, 2022. [9]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Here is the 2022 'All-Awardless' team", mlb.com, December 11, 2022. [10]
  • Zach Crizer: "How did MLB produce an NBA-style, 24-hour frenzy of free agent drama with a lockout looming?", Yahoo! Sports, November 30, 2021. [11]
  • Mark Feinsand: "A whirlwind of deals has energized offseason", mlb.com, November 30, 2021. [12]
  • Mark Feinsand: "Commissioner on plans for rule changes, stadium situations", mlb.com, June 16, 2022. [13]
  • Rick Henderson (The Week): "Americans need to be reintroduced to baseball. The lockout might be the perfect opportunity.", Yahoo! Sports, January 14, 2022. [14]
  • Hannah Keyser: "What does 'Trying to Win' even mean in baseball anymore?", Yahoo! Sports, March 21, 2022. [15]
  • Gabe Lacques: "MLB at Memorial Day: 30 things we've learned so far in baseball's chaotic 2022 season: As spring becomes summer, the holiday weekend serves a tentpole to take stock of the season to date.", USA Today, May 29, 2022. [16]
  • Will Leitch: "7 ways the new playoff format could alter the season", mlb.com, March 13, 2022. [17]
  • Will Leitch: "10 storylines no one could have predicted", mlb.com, July 6, 2022. [18]
  • Matt Monagan: "The drink that has taken over baseball", mlb.com, September 15, 2022. [19]
  • Bob Nightengale (USA Today): "MLB's first half superlatives, from MVP to worst free agent signings", Yahoo! News, July 17, 2022. [20]

See also[edit]