According to a report from ESPN’s Howard Bryant, Major League Baseball and the players’ union have agreed on a plan to scrap current intentional walk rules and allow managers to signal from the dugout and automatically send the batter to first base. The rule, like the proposed change to extra innings where teams would start with a runner on second, is designed to speed up games.
The problem with this proposal is that the savings would be minimal. Intentional walks are on the decline and eliminating the four pitches it takes to move a batter over would only save an average of 14 seconds per game. That’s about one minute per walk on something that only happened once every 2.6 games.
This change won’t materially affect the outcome of many games, but it’s still eliminating something in the game that everyone should be able to pull off. Intentional walks are easy, you just sort of toss the ball to your catcher a few times. Eliminating them is not a strictly ceremonial change; batters knocked hits off of limp tosses to the plate and errant throws have cost teams crucial runs. Those make for some of the funniest and wackiest baseball plays, which seems more attractive to young viewers than 14 seconds worth of time savings.