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Did any of the new MLB rules this season make a difference in the game?

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The Texas Rangers won their first World Series when they blanked the Arizona Diamondbacks last night in Phoenix, 5-0. They also set a record by winning all 11 of their road playoff games. And that brings to a close a very different baseball season, one where new rules reduced the length of games by instituting a pitch clock. Pitchers now had either 15 or 20 seconds to throw the ball. And that was one of the many changes.

So how did all that affect the game? Mark Gubicza was a World Series champ and a two-time All-Star pitcher with the Kansas City Royals. He's now in the LA Angels broadcast booth.

MARK GUBICZA: It made the game so much better. It was amazing how many people were still in - at the stadium at the end of the game. Before, there would be nobody left because the games were 3 hours and 45 minutes, four hours long. But because of the pitch timer, the action was there. And I think that's what made everything so much better.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, games on average were 20 minutes faster than they were last season. It doesn't seem like a lot - right, Gubie? - but 20 minutes in a baseball game makes all the difference.

GUBICZA: Guys were on their toes. The focus was there. You weren't sitting around waiting for a pitcher to go for their breathing exercises on the mound. It slowed everything down. So I think everything across the board was so much better this season than any time, you know, I've seen in a long, long time.

MARTÍNEZ: I know Major League Baseball also put an end to infield shifts. That's where teams would move a lot of players to one side of the field. Average runs per game was up. Batting averages were up.

I mentioned, Mark, you were a pitcher. And there was one rule in particular where pitchers were most affected. So pitchers now have a limited amount of times that they can attempt to pick off a runner on first base. And the actual bases themselves are actually larger. So through a pitcher's lens, Mark, how do you think pitchers in Major League Baseball adjusted to that?

GUBICZA: Well, you saw the stolen base attempts increased. The success rate on stolen bases, you know, increased, too. Again, that created more action, put guys in scoring position so a base hit can score you from second, or even a fly ball or a ground ball out can score you from third after you steal third base. Now, granted, you only get 20 seconds, but that's why the good, smart pitchers will get in their stretch position as soon as the hitter made eye contact when I'm at the plate, and you held that ball all the way to that 18 to 19 second and you stop them from getting any momentum. That being said, but the action and the number of stolen bases by some really good base runners now, it's going to - you know, it started in the minor leagues. It's going to really continue on as far as the major league level.

MARTÍNEZ: Gubie, you know, baseball is my favorite sport, and I'll take it any way it comes no matter what. And I thought the changes were good for the game when they were announced. But a lot of traditionalists wanted to wait and see. So overall, is baseball better today than it was a year ago?

GUBICZA: A thousand times better, A. These changes are - really made the game way better for every fan - not even, you know, longtime fans, but even younger fans. And that's the thing, is when you look at the demographics of the fan base that really jumped on board with baseball this season, it's a younger fan base, and that's the thing that's important. You had more people come to the games for, like, at least the last seven, eight years, I think. TV ratings across the board were up, although I know it's down a little bit here in the World Series, but it's in the right direction. Now, what do they do going forward to even make it better? We'll see. But I'm never going to be one that's going to say, no, we can't do that.

MARTÍNEZ: That's World Series champion, two-time All-Star Mark Gubicza. Mark, thanks a lot.

GUBICZA: Hey, appreciate it, my man.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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