Pace of Play Adjustments in MLB
In this post we will list some new ideas to help Major League Baseball with their rules concerning “Pace of Play.” Commissioner Manfred has been clear that he wants less time between action plays and appears interested in changing rules to make sure this happens. His concern is that today’s viewer is less inclined to stay engaged unless adjustments are made to certain parts of the game to improve pace of play.
1) Pitching Visits and Changes
Visits To The Mound MLB Rule 5.10 (l) (8.06): Currently there is a lot of talk about the number of pitching changes slowing down pace of play and prolonging the game. Also catchers and infielders going to the mound to have a conversation with the pitcher slow down pace of play.
Any defensive player conversation on the field that involves pitcher and/or catcher should result in a “half-visit” charged to the defensive team. When a relief pitcher comes into a game all communication should be done before he warms up. Don’t warm up then figure out what you’re going to throw or what signs will be used with man on second.
The St Louis Cardinals have basically put Yadier Molina in charge of the pitchers. I have seen him have three conversations at the mound with the same pitcher in one inning. The Diamondbacks recently had six meetings at the mound in one inning before taking a pitcher out. Being on the same page is vital to success but come on guys.
Charge a half-visit if infielders must go to the mound and talk to the pitcher. If a catcher wants to visit the pitcher and talk about a pinch hitter, that’s a half-visit. Now the pitching coach comes out, forgetting about the infielder visit and catcher visit. The coaches visit still counts as a full trip. Since the second visit in an inning means relieving the pitcher, you need to make a change.
Because you cannot make 2 visits to the same pitcher during the same at-bat, the umpires need to stop a coach and players from doing this. Just like they are required to do now. That’s not a change because of pace of play, that’s already a rule.
The same rules apply for when a conversation ends (like a coach stepping off the mound dirt). Also, what happens when a coach defies an umpire’s direction to not have a second conversation during the same at-bat. We would need to add to the penalty to include all parties involved in the illegal conversation.
Let’s say Anthony Rizzo is coming up with men on first and second base. Molina comes out to the mound to converse with the pitcher then leaves the mound dirt. Now Kolten Wong wants to know what signals are being used with a man on second so he comes to the mound. Both those conversations count for a half-point each. When Matheny now comes out to the mound to change pitchers he has to be stopped by the umpires. He must be informed that would be 2 trips during the same at-bat, can’t do it.
If Matheny proceeds to the mound after being warned he needs to be sent back to the dugout. The pitcher faces Rizzo but then that pitcher is replaced and Matheny ejected.
Again, I’m all for communication, organization, and strategy. The number of visits has gotten out of control and MLB wants to improve pace of play.
2) Twelve Second Rule
Enforce the 12 second rule that is already in place Rule 5.07 c. When there is no runner on base, the pitcher has 12 seconds to throw the next pitch. This is already a rule encouraging pace of play. Part of the problem is the hitters have developed habits of stepping out of the box after every pitch. What happened to enforcing the “keep one foot in the box” rule?
Pitchers, hitters, and umpires are all guilty of letting this become an issue. The problem is how the rule reads. The clock starts when the pitcher has the ball AND the hitter is “in the box , alert to the pitcher.” Please, let’s just say 12 seconds and if the hitter isn’t ready that’s his fault.
The rule is that the umpire calls a ball if the pitch isn’t made within 12 seconds. The umpire also needs to call a strike if after 12 seconds the pitcher is ready but the hitter isn’t “in the box, alert to the pitcher.” That is not hard to do. Just enforce it for the sake of pace of play.
Take a look at Pedro Baez of the Dodgers when you get a chance. He is a completely different operator out there. His time between pitches is reduced by more than 15 seconds. It works.
3) Major League Batter’s Box Adjustment
The MLB rule for dimensions of the batter’s box is 4 feet wide and 6 feet long. There are to be 6 inches
between each inside corner of the plate and the chalk line of the batter’s box. Does that mean the chalk edge closer to home plate or the edge of the line closer to the batter’s feet. There was a time when teams didn’t chalk the entire batter’s box. Please see the Mark McGwire feature photo.
If there is no distinction, a three inch wide chalk line could put the chalk anywhere from 3 inches to 9 inches from the inside corner of home plate. It all depends whether you use the 6-inches as the inside, outside, or middle of the chalk line you put down.
Why is this important for pace of play? “Too many strikeouts and home runs” is what I recently heard Commissioner Manfred say. Part of the problem was created when hitters were given the green light to lean out over the plate into the strike zone. Pitcher’s are hesitant to pitch inside. If they hit someone, they get warned and anyone coming close to hitting another guy gets tossed.
But we can’t do anything about that now. So, let’s do something about where the hitter is in relation to the batter’s box, not home plate necessarily. I would like to adjust the rule to read 9 inches between the inside corner of the white part of home plate and the closest part of the batter’s box chalk line. Also make it known that the hitter cannot be touching the inside chalk line of the batter’s box with any part of their feet.
Anthony Rizzo and Justin Turner
The man is in the strike zone constantly. On April 19, 2017 Rizzo is on pace for approximately 45 hit-by-pitches this season. That’s 50% more than he had in 2015.
Up on the plate. Hands hanging in the strike zone. Dare the pitcher to throw something over the inside third of the plate. I’ve turned the outside third into middle and I’ll hit that to the opposite field gap.
Here is a Justin Turner photo. Compare Turner’s pre-swing with Rizzo’s pre-swing. Their hands are often over the inside corner of the plate when they take their stance. Both get hit-by-pitch more than most people. Currently Josh Harrison with 6, Turner 5, Rizzo and Jarod Dyson with 4 lead MLB in hit-by-pitches.
Adjust the Batter’s Box
Move the inside of the batter’s box and you give the pitcher’s somewhere to pitch the ball. This forces the hitter to use a more defensive swing when behind in the count. By doing this you bring back the 2-strike approach, putting more balls in play with 2 strikes instead of fouling balls off with pull swings.
What you take away is the hitter’s plan of getting on top of the plate. He wants to use a pull mentality throughout the entire at-bat. A decrease in extended at-bats will be the result with balls in play leading to action. Improving pace of play.
Look at this photo of Rizzo getting barrel on this 2-strike pitch. Do you see where the catcher’s mitt is?
Rizzo got barrel on this pitch because of where he stands, the pitch just off the outside corner is middle to him.
Taking away 3 inches of width with the batter’s box will affect very few hitters and where they actually stand. The affected hitters would be those that are “cozied up” to the plate with their feet close to the inside line of the batter’s box. Also affected would be the individuals with the pull mentality throughout the entire at bat. In the above Rizzo photo you can just make out the lines of the batter’s box.
Move the chalk line so if a pitch is up and 2 inches inside everyone can see that the ball wouldn’t be close to the hitter if he wasn’t diving over the plate.
Aledmys Diaz dives over the plate. This pitch is shoulder high and just off the inside corner but look at his reaction to it because he is on the plate and dives in. His back knee is hanging outside the batter’s box.
Back him up!
Here is the batter’s box the Dodgers are putting on display for home games.
Been doing it for years. Look at the width of the Dodger Stadium lines at home plate compared to the lines which are more common throughout MLB. Hitters sometimes habitually line themselves up with the chalk lines and not home plate. Doing this at Dodger Stadium puts the hitter 2 inches away from their typical location within the batter’s box.
The Dodger hitters will be lining up with home plate, but even a major league hitter will lose his relationship with home plate. Line yourself up wrong and you set yourself up for a tough trip to Hollywood. One more thing. Does it look like the inside line of the batter’s box is 6 inches away from the plate? Tough to tell but when was the last time somebody checked on this around the league?
4) Body Armor Affects Pace of Play
Along with number 3, I want to touch on an earlier idea. If you are going to wear armor during an at-bat, you must wear it on the bases. No more calling timeout for your coach to come get your elbow guard or shin guard after you double. If you don’t want the shin guard on your leg while you’re running, wear it on you arm.
5) Put Reviews On Scoreboard
Rumor has it that the crew chief at each game will be wearing a mic to announce to spectators the results of challenges. As I wrote earlier, just put it up on the scoreboard. Let the crew chief call in the review then head back to his position and wait for the result to be put up on the scoreboard.
6) Incentives to Improve Pace of Play
A few people are promoting incentives for players to help with pace of play. Giving them money to pitch within the 12 seconds, keep one foot in the batter’s box, etc. No. You make a rule and enforce it. No need for payment for abiding by the rules of the game.
Posted by Scott Hortness, The Baseball Sauna April 25, 2017
Matt Kemp photo by Brendan C by https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Batter’s Box “Progressive Field” by https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Mark McGwire photo by Brent Steffey https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/