A gentleman’s game, Abner Doubleday created baseball as a sedately game with no time limits; to be played at a leisurely pace. But over the past few years Major League Baseball has thrown out a number of ideas designed to “speed up the game”.
A few of those ideas will become a part of the game next season that include limiting the time a pitcher may take between pitches and how the players on the field may defend the field of play. The new rule changes were tested over some 8,000 games in the minor leagues before implementing them in the majors.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the new rules would, “bring back the best form of baseball.” He added, “number one, fans want games with better pace. “Two, fans want more action, more balls in play. And three, fans want to see more of the athleticism of our great players.”
Not happy with all of the new rule changes, the MLB Players Association issued a statement saying, “Players live the game — day in and day out. On-field rules and regulations impact their preparation, performance, and ultimately, the integrity of the game itself. Major League Baseball was unwilling to meaningfully address the areas of concern that players raised.”
While the distances from home plate to the outfield wall vary from ballpark to ballpark, two things have been constant throughout the history of baseball…the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate – 60 feet six inches – and the distance between bases – 90 feet.
One of the new rules will change those dimensions when MLB will begin using larger bases next year. The new bases will shorten the distance from 90 feet to 85.5 inches with an increase from 15 square inches to 18 square inches. The new larger bases are also expected to cut down on injuries to players.
Pitchers will be “on the clock” beginning next season. They will have a maximum of 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when there are runners on base. Pitchers are not the only players who have found relative ways to “stall” the game, catchers and batters have also been known to take their time in getting set. As a part of the pitch clock, a catcher must be in position and ready to receive the ball with no less than nine seconds remaining on the clock. If he fails to do so, the batter will be awarded a ball. Conversely, a batter must be ready to accept the pitch with no less than eight seconds remaining on the clock. If he fails to do so, he will receive a strike.
Over the years there have been pitchers who have thrown nearly as many balls to first base in an attempt to pick off a runner. Beginning next season, a pitcher is limited to just two such throws per batter. Should a pitcher make a third “pick off” throw, a balk will be called. Should a runner advance during a single at bat, then the number for “pick off throws” – what the MLB calls a disengagement – will be reset to zero.
Batters will be allowed one time out per at bat. Any further time outs will be at the umpire’s discretion.
In recent years managers have taken to moving players around or “shifting” in order to defend against certain batters placement when they put the ball in play. Beginning next season, the second baseman must be on either side of the base with all infielders within the infield; however, a five man infield will still be allowed.
Stat keepers have noted a significant increase in shifts over the past few seasons.
If a team has used all five of their mound visits by the eighth inning, they may receive one more visit for the ninth inning.