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Speed of play changes coming to MLB

While there won't be a pitch-clock in the major leagues this season, there will be some changes to hurry things along, which could make things interesting...

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Here are details of the major changes which will be introduced:

The pace of game program will enforce the batter's box rule, requiring that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter's box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. The new rule at the Major League level mirrors 6.02(d), which was in place in Minor League Baseball in 2014.

Any breach of this will result in the umpire automatically awarding a strike. And, of course, if you already have two of those on you, you're outta there. Here is the rule in question, along with the exceptions currently listed: "The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout the batter’s time at bat, unless one of the following exceptions applies, in which case the batter may leave the batter’s box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate

  • (i) The batter swings at a pitch;
  • (ii) The batter is forced out of the batter’s box by a pitch;
  • (iii) A member of either team requests and is granted "Time";
  • (iv) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
  • (v) The batter feints a bunt;
  • (vi) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;
  • (vii) The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or
  • (viii)The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.

But as for that MiLB thing?

A second new component to the pace of game program is the addition of timers that will measure non-game action and break time between innings and pitching changes during each Major League game. One timer will be installed on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the façade behind home plate near the press box. Immediately following the third out of each half-inning, the timer will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and from 2:45 for nationally televised games. An MLB representative attending each game will operate the timers from the ballpark and will track the following events:

Time Remaining: Activity
40 Seconds: PA announces batter and begins to play walk-up music
30 Seconds: Pitcher throws final warm-up pitch
25 Seconds: Batter's walk-up music ends
20 Seconds-5 Seconds: Batter enters the batter's box
20 Seconds-0 Seconds: Pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch

So there will now be timers on the field, albeit only (at this point, anyway) to monitor the breaks between innings and during pitching changes. I note, with a sardonically-raised eyebrow, the difference between the commercial break duration for locally- and nationally-televised games. I wonder who the "MLB representative attending each game" will be: is there going to be a job opportunity here, because I could totally do that. There's also stuff about pitchers completing their warmup pitches before 30 seconds are left, or losing them. There's no in-game penalty, but warnings and fines, beginning in May this year.

Managers may now invoke instant replay from the dugout and will no longer be required to approach the calling umpire to challenge a call. Managers may hold play from the top step of the dugout by signaling to players and the home plate umpire that he is considering a challenge. A decision can be communicated verbally or with a hand signal. To challenge an inning-ending call, managers will be required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field.

No more Gibby ambling slowly out towards the second-base umpire. Though I'm not certain how much time will actually be saved here, since we'll still have to wait for the yay or nay from the man in the back reviewing the video feed. I guess, in the event a challenge is not used, we will at least avoid having to wait for Gibby to amble slowly back from the second-base umpire. Managers now also get to retain their challenge after every successful appeal, rather than just the first, and "must use a challenge in order to review whether a play at home plate included a violation of the rule governing home plate collisions." Somewhere, St. Buster winces beatifically.

So, what do you think? Is it too much? Not enough?