Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fixing the Pace of Play Issue

Nine days ago Major League Baseball formed the "Pace of Game Committee" to study the pace of play, with the goal of decreasing the time of the game and increasing the pace of it.

"It's only the 2nd inning?!?!"

For the first time in the history of MLB, the average game time got above three hours this season. At the same time, scoring was at its lowest point since 1976. Those two things by themselves are bad for the game's popularity, but put them together and the game has a big problem.

One problem with the pace of play has to do with instant replay. You've seen it plenty of times this season... A manager will slowly walk out of his dugout to speak with an umpire about a play, while one of the assistant coaches looks at the play to decide whether to challenge it. Eventually, the play is challenged, and the replay is looked at for a minute or so and then decided on. Some feel that a replay official should challenge the play sooner, thus eliminating the previous scenario from playing out... wasting time.

Well, unfortunately the committee, nor MLB, has put anything in place to fix the instant replay thing. However, they have come up with a few new rules to speed up play, and those rules will be tested out during the Arizona Fall League.

Those rules are...
  1. Batter's Box Rule: The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout his at-bat, unless one of a series of established exceptions occurs, in which case the batter may leave the batter's box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate. (Exceptions include a foul ball or a foul tip; a pitch forcing the batter out of the batter's box; “time” being requested and granted; a wild pitch or a passed ball; and several others.)
  2. No-Pitch Intentional Walks: In the event a team decides to intentionally walk a batter, no pitches shall be thrown. Instead, the manager shall signal to the home plate umpire with four fingers, and the batter should proceed to first base to become a runner.
  3. 20-Second Rule [AT 17 SALT RIVER FIELDS HOME GAMES ONLY]: A modified version of Rule 8.04, which discourages unnecessary delays by the pitcher, shall apply. Rule 8.04 requires the pitcher to deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball with the bases unoccupied. The penalty prescribed by Rule 8.04 for a pitcher's violation of the Rule is that the umpire shall call “Ball.”
I don't see #1 as a big problem, and feel it will only have a slight affect on the game, but I don't find any problem with it. Sure, there are times when a batter will step out of the box between pitches to rub dirt on his gloves or the bat, or something like that, but it isn't so often that I feel it's a real problem.

While #3 sounds good, Major League Baseball already had something like it in place, but it wasn't enforced by umpires. Therefore, a different rule seems unnecessary. I'm a varsity basketball official, and every year there are certain rules that are made into points of emphasis, and we have to enforce them more stringently. The same needs to be done with this rule for MLB umps. 

Now, as for #2, I'm all for it. While you see passed balls/wild pitches every once in a while during intentional walks, they are not often enough that fans should have to watch the pitcher and catcher play catch for a couple minutes. Just put the batter on first and get on with the game.

Normally, when I see a group make decisions like this so quickly I cringe. Especially when it comes to rules decisions. Oftentimes they are just knee-jerk reactions, and are not thoroughly thought about first. But these three changes either don't mean much (#1), aren't much different than a rule already in place (#3), or make plenty of sense (#2). Plus, being able to try them out in glorified scrimmages, means they can be tweaked more before the 2015 season begins.


  1. Not that I care one way or the other but the 4 finger rule seems kind of redundant. It also takes away the extremely rare possibility that a pitch is thrown wild, a batter swings, stealing a base on the throw, faking it (like I think I have seen once), etc.

    It's a minor gripe but I feel like I haven't had enough to gripe about lately... so there you have it

  2. How about limiting the amount of times a pitcher allowed to throw over to first? I've seen some throw over 5 or 6 times before he even throws a pitch.

    1. That's a great idea as well. They will do that to kill time for bullpen changes as well.

    2. So a runner gets an insane advantage? No way.

  3. I am old and forget sometimes but, I thought at one time there was a four finger rule back in the 60s or 70s? Anyone out there back that up or call me a......pick your poison!

  4. If you put the limit at like three or four throws I don't think you would run into a case very often at all that the runner absolutely knows the pitcher is going home.


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