In response to the short attention span of the ‘need it now’ society that we live in, several sports are faced with decisions on shortening the length of their games.
As our national pastime is often maligned for being too ‘old-school,’ it has been taking measures to investigate whether speeding up the game is a reasonable objective. Major League Baseball’s pace-of-game committee came up with six experimental rules quicken the pace of its game, enacted in this year’s Arizona Fall League:
- Hitters must keep at least one foot inside the batter’s box at all times, barring exceptions like foul balls, wild pitches, or if the umpire grants him time out.
- Pitchers must throw a pitch within 20 seconds of receiving the ball. Clocks posted in each dugout will count down the 20 seconds.
- There will be a maximum break between innings of 2:05, with a clock keeping track. Hitters must be in the batter’s box by 1:45. If the hitter’s not ready, the umpire can call a strike. If the pitcher doesn’t throw a pitch by 2:05, the umpire can call a ball.
- Teams will have a maximum of 2:30 to change pitchers, with the clock starting as soon as the reliever enters the playing field.
- Teams are limited to a maximum of three mound visits per game, not including pitching changes. This applies to trips to the mound by managers, coaches, and catchers.
- Pitchers no longer have to deliver four balls for an intentional walk. The manager can simply signal to the umpire.
Starting on May 1, the MLB will begin to fine batters who don’t keep a foot in the box and pitchers who don’t complete their warm-ups in time. As with anything in baseball, the changes have come with mixed results:
“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal. I really don’t,” said Indians manager Terry Francona in an AP article by Tom Withers. “It’s going to be that day and it’s hot and everyone’s a little on edge, that’s when you’re going to see something. But that’s what you see during the games anyway.”
“It’s a work in progress,” MLB umpire Tom Hallion added in the same article. “It’s the first game and we’ll go from here. It’s going to take some work. It’s a change for everybody. It’s not going to get fixed on the first day.” –MLB umpire Tom Hallion
Other baseball leagues around the country have also experimented with pace of play rules. The Atlantic Independent Professional Baseball League has enacted several rules over the past few years, including calling the ‘high strike,’ a pitch clock and 90 seconds between innings. Further, any game that lasts more than two hours and 45 minutes requires a written report to be filed by the umpires, managers, the official scorer and home team general manager and sent to the league office explaining why the game took so long.
If that wasn’t enough, the Atlantic League has also experimented automatic intentional walks, closer enforcement of the traditional strike zone, batters keeping a foot in the box, mound visits and offensive timeouts, a 12-second pitch clock and six warm-up pitches between innings instead of eight. Continue reading