On Thursday, Major League Baseball announced it would be implementing several minor rule changes in an effort to speed up the place of play of the games. The rules will be in effect for the 2017 regular season.
Highlighting the list of changes is the “no-pitch intentional walk.” Historically, if a pitcher wanted to intentionally walk a batter, he would still need to throw four balls to the catcher. Now, a manager can signal to the home plate umpire if he wishes to issue an intentional walk. Should that signal be given, the battle will immediately be awarded first base, ending the prospect of the rare wild pitch on the intentional walk or the even rarer intentional walk hit taking place. Sorry, Miggy.
Another new rule now gives managers a maximum of 30 seconds to decide if they want to challenge a play. Furthermore, umpires are limited to having just two minutes to review a replay.
Automatic replays of home runs now will not take place until the eighth inning onward, rather than in the seventh.
The league also attempted to further clarify what would constitute a balk with a rule that prohibits pitchers from taking a second step toward home plate during the delivery of a pitch. This would certainly put the unique delivery of San Diego Padres’ reliever Carter Capps in jeopardy as umpires will be left to subjectively determine whether the delivery is legal or not. And I thought these rules were supposed to speed up the game?
While these changes will not cut the game down by an hour, most of them should shave a few minutes off the clock. According to the New York Times, the average length of an MLB game was over three hours in 2016. Games will need to take much, much less time than that if baseball wants to strengthen its slipping grip on younger generations of viewers. If we can take anything from the new rules, its that the league is at least trying to find solutions.
A full list of the rule changes for 2017 can be viewed here as per MLB.