MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been pushing hard for changes designed to speed up baseball’s pace of play, and today the league announced a set of initiatives aimed at doing just that:
It was reported earlier this month that Manfred was expected to push forward with a pitch clock and tighter restrictions on mound visits. Today’s announcement backs off the pitch clock, citing the hope that players will act to speed up play without such a dramatic measure:
After receiving substantial input from the Major League Baseball Players Association and Club personnel, MLB’s Competition and Playing Rules Committees recommended that Commissioner Rob Manfred proceed with a rule change limiting the number of mound visits in a game and a rule designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes. The Commissioner has decided to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.
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 have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions.”
The new rule will limit teams to just six mound visits per nine innings, and those visits do include teammates conferring with the pitcher without the presence of a coach. MLB’s glossary, available on the MLB website, still lists the old rule for mound visits. You can start to see how this will be a significant change:
A manager or coach can make one mound visit per pitcher per inning without needing to remove the pitcher from the game. If a manager or coach visits the same pitcher twice in one inning, the pitcher must be removed from the contest.
Mound visits are limited to 30 seconds, starting when the manager or coach has exited the dugout and been granted time by the umpire.
So now, instead of one 30-second mound visit from a coach per pitcher, per inning, teams are limited to six total mound visits, from players or coaches, across an entire nine-inning contest. This means every time a catcher and a pitcher are having a hard time getting on the same page with signals, or every time a catcher wants to call for a pitch without signaling, in order to protect the signal from a baserunner, the team will have to consider whether the communication is worth biting into their limited number of total visits.
So it’s a meaningful change—and, depending upon your goofy feelings about the unhurried joy of the game, a positive one—but hopefully less disruptive than pitch and batter clocks, and certainly less insane than starting extra innings with runners in scoring position.