Major League Baseball has released its latest rule changes to speed of the pace of play on the field.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred released his latest attempt to increase the pace of play. This has been an ongoing initiative for Manfred since he took over the role of baseball’s head man from Bud Selig, but the results have been mixed to date, with no significant progress to get under the three-hour mark for an average game. The much-talked-about pitch timer that has been used in the minor leagues did not make the cut this year, but Manfred has not ruled it out in the future.
Commissioner Manfred said: “I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players. My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions.”
The majority of the rule changes are focused on limiting the dead time for things like pitching changes, mound visits and inning breaks. An attempt to expedite instant replay is also included, but there are no specific guidelines outlining how the process will actually change. The MLBPA would not agree to implement the pitch clock.
Mound visits will now be limited to six per nine innings during the postseason, with an extra visit for each inning should the game reach extra innings. The rule remains unchanged during the regular season, and a pitcher must be removed after two visits in the same inning. Catchers will be allowed to make a visit to the mound in the event of a cross-up on signs, but must be given permission by the home plate umpire.
Breaks between innings will also be strictly enforced, and pitchers must throw their final warm-up toss no less than 20 seconds before the start of an inning. Relievers will be held to the same standard when coming in from the bullpen. Umpires are in charge of enforcing the new rules, and flagrant offenders will be punished by the league.
For most fans, these rules will be barely noticeable. The average time of a game was 3:05 last year. In spite of the league’s efforts to speed up the game, the average time actually went up by over four minutes. It is worth noting that an average NFL game is longer than an MLB game and has just as much dead time between plays, if not more.
Baseball is what it is as a sport, and nitpicking over the number of warm-up tosses or mound visits is not going to win over disinterested fans. For real change to come in the time of a game, the league will have to find new and creative ways to shorten commercial breaks while still generating revenue for advertisers.
A minor-league game, with no commercials, can be played in close to two hours. With over two minutes between innings and at every pitching change, the league has nearly 40 minutes of dead time to work with in each game that does not require the intrinsic rules of the game to be fiddled with each year.