Rule Changes Could Be Coming To A Ballpark Near You

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If you have ever been on twitter during a baseball game, or have ever talked to someone about why they don’t like baseball, you’re likely to hear something about how long baseball games are lasting. In 2014, the average time of game was around 3:08, which is up from 2:55 in 2010. This has drawn the ire from many critics who say that the game is simply too long and moves to slowly to be entertaining. MLB and their fresh & new Pace of Game Committee announced earlier this year that the Arizona Fall League would be implementing six experimental rules to see if the games can be shortened without compromising the integrity of the game. The AFL wrapped up play on November 15th, so I’m sure we’ll hear soon as to which of these rules, if any, will be getting called up the Bigs in 2015.
1) The batter must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box at all times.

That is, unless there is a ball hit in play, a pitch that takes the batter out of the box, or the batter calls for time out and his request is granted by the umpire. Even during these exceptions, the batter must remain in the dirt area surrounding home plate. Failure to comply will result in the umpire calling a strike against the batter. I don’t think many people will complain about this one, other than some batters who have a Garciaparra-esque routine between pitchers. One concern I have is with batters who foul a ball off of their leg and then instinctively hop a few yards away from the plate. Will these batters be penalized for leaving the dirt that surrounds home?

2) Intentional Walks no longer need to be thrown.

Instead of pitchers having to throw four wide ones, managers will be able to signal the home plate umpire that he wants to give the batter first base, and a walk will be granted. This seems like a simple way to shave some time off of the length of game, but the fact that sometimes pitchers can’t play catch with their catcher at a big spot in the game makes this rule unnecessary in my opinion. Pitchers sometimes throw a passed ball or a pitch that catches too much of the plate. With this rule in place, would the Marlins have won this game? I say make ‘em earn it.

3) Breaks between innings must be no longer than 2:05.

This rule is good for fans who have grown tired of incredibly lengthy commercial breaks between innings. This rule also stipulates that the batter must be in the batter’s box by 1:45 or else a strike may be called against him, and the pitcher must throw his pitch by 2:05 or he will be charged with a ball. Straightforward enough.

4) Pitching changes may take a maximum of 2:30.

The clock starts once the reliever steps onto the field, and from then, he’s got 2:30 to throw a pitch to the batter. We’ll see if this inspires more relievers to take after Todd Coffey.

5) Teams are allowed three mound visits per game.

This rule does not include pitching changes or injuries, but does include visits to the mound by the catcher or any other player. To me, this is the biggest of the proposed rule changes, since as of today, coaches are allowed to visit the mound once per inning, and catchers are allowed seemingly unlimited mound visits whenever they please. I would be very surprised to see this rule implemented in the big leagues for a number of reasons. First and foremost, mound visits don’t eat up that much time, considering that they are done mostly at big spots in games where the next pitch could directly decide the outcome. These visits matter. Second, how many times have we seen Elvis Andrus run up to a struggling pitcher and offer him some words of encouragement? Would each one of those brief visits cost a team one of their mound visits? It shouldn’t. Thirdly, I feel like this rule overlooks the language barrier that exists between many battery mates. If there is some miscommunication between the multi-national pair, it is sometimes necessary for the catcher to visit the mound in order for them to get on the same page. Finally, this rule affects game strategy. Let’s say that Nick Tepesch walks two batters to lead off the top of the third. Does Mike Maddux go to the mound and try to settle him down, or does he try to save his mound visits for a time when he thinks they will be more important? As I said before, these visits have the capability of deciding the outcome of the game, and should not be thrown out just for the sake of saving time.

6) The pitcher must begin throwing the ball within 20 seconds.

Here, the clock starts when the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher or the umpire, and it stops once the pitcher begins his delivery or begins his movement to the set position. If the pitcher does not start his delivery after holding the ball for 20 seconds, the umpire will call a ball. Oh, and there’s also a clock at field level to keep everyone honest! (Right now, in MLB, Rule 8.04 says that pitchers must release the ball after 12 seconds. Nobody enforces this rule.)

After three games with these rules in place, AFL games lasted 2:27 per nine innings, down from 2:51 last year. That same 14% decrease in the Majors would shorten games by 27 minutes on average to 2:41.

So what do you think? Do you think MLB games are too long? Do you think any of these proposed rule changes are good for the fans and the players? Is there any rule that you would create or change?

Hayden Smith
Hayden was born and raised in the Metroplex, and is a senior at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is on a mission to visit all of the Major League parks in the nation, and is only 10% there. He would bring back Josh Lewin, like any real fan would.

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