Freelance Journalist

PACE OF PLAY A ‘FAN ISSUE?’ SHOW ME

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You can now find Major League Baseball’s newest rule listed in the official rule book under OBR 5.10(l). Make a note of this historic “pace of play” rule change because, one, it is the first of its kind and, two, it may be the tipping point for more changes to the game.

Prior to Monday’s official release, it was believed that the league would also implement a pitch clock designed to increase the pace of the game. But, as MLB.com reported, the league is deferring the decision “to give players an opportunity to respond to the new rules and positively affect pace of play throughout the 2018 season.”

OBR 5.10(1)

For the record, OBR 5.10(1) “governs mound visits by a manager or coach.” What is the definition of “mound visit?” According to the new MLB rule, a mound visit is when a “manager or coach visits the mound to meet with the pitcher” or when “a player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher (including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player) regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit.”

Tony Clark, the MLBPA executive director assured the media that “players were involved in the discussion from Day 1 … but they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself — now or in the future.”

Despite Clark’s pledge that the league and its players are on the same page, questions remain. Do players, coaches and managers have a voice in the decision-making process as it relates to rule changes?

PLAYER REACTION

Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel called the pace of the play change “borderline ridiculous.” He told local Houston beat reporters, “Baseball is a sport without a time limit. That is the way it has been, and it’s not like we are trying to delay the game. There are no rules that need to be implemented on pace of play.”

New York Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland told the New York Post, he is not concerned with pitching coach mound visits. What worries Eiland is the impact the changes will have on his catcher — and the game. “The catcher gets crossed up, what happens if the umpire gets hit, he’s going to have to shake it off,” he said. “Passed balls — sloppier game. That takes away from being Major League Baseball.”

The announcement was a hot topic inside MLB clubhouses on Monday afternoon, but not one of surprise. In fact, their was a tone of resignation.

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin said, “There’s no sense in fighting it … We’ll deal with it because we have to. We’ll figure out a way.”

“We’re understanding that there are some new normals in baseball,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’re getting versed on the new rules, and while we might not agree with them, we respect what the commissioner’s office is trying to do.”

SHOW ME THE RESEARCH

“Pace of game is a fan issue,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “Our research tells us that it’s a fan issue, our broadcast partners tell us that it’s a fan issue, and the independent research that our broadcast partners do confirm with that, that it’s a fan issue.

Major League Baseball nor its broadcast partners have published the aforementioned research. Requests to obtain a copy of the research results from the league office have not been returned.


Summary of 2018 Rule Changes

I) Mound Visits

1. Number

A. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.

B. OBR 5.10(l). Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning).

2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:

A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;

B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;

C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and

D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.

3. Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

II) Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes

1. Time of Break. The timer will count down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised championship season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised championship season games, and from 2:55 for tie-breaker and postseason games as follows:

Time Remaining | Required Action

25 seconds: Umpire signals pitcher to complete last warmup pitch.

20 seconds: Batter’s announced and must leave on-deck circle, batter walk-up music shall begin, and pitcher shall complete last warmup pitch.

0 seconds: Pitcher must begin motion to deliver first pitch.

A. The pitcher may take as many warm-up pitches as he desires, but regardless of how many warm-up pitches he has thrown, he must deliver his final warm-up pitch at least 20 seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change. OBR 5:07 will be revised to reflect that pitcher is not guaranteed eight warm-up pitches.

B. The umpire shall signal for the last warm-up pitch at 25 seconds, unless a special circumstance (as described below) applies.

C. The batter must leave the on-deck circle and proceed directly to the batter’s box when the pitcher throws his final warm-up pitch.

D. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is alert to the pitcher; provided, however, the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break.

2. Special Circumstances. A Player will be excused from following the time limits set forth above if the umpire determines that any of the following special circumstances are present:

A. There is a delay in normal warm-up activities during the inning break due to no fault of the Players (e.g., injury or other medical emergency, equipment issues, playing field or grounds crew issues);

B. The umpire believes the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warm-up pitches;

C. The umpire believes the batter is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter’s box;

D. Any other special circumstances which, in the umpire’s judgment, warrant allowing the pitcher to throw after the deadline.

3. Start of Timer for Inning Breaks

A.Last Out of Inning. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break.

B.Close Plays/Replay Review. The Field Timing Coordinator shall delay the start of the timer if the final out of the inning is a close play that may be reviewed by instant replay. If the final out of the inning is determined in instant replay, the timer shall start as soon as the out is signaled by the umpire.

C. Pitcher or Catcher On Base/On Deck. If a pitcher ends an inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer shall reset when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If a catcher ends the inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout (and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher).

4. Start of Timer for Pitching Changes

A.Pitcher Crosses Warning Track. The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game. In the case of a pitching change that occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset if previously started as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).

B.Relief Pitchers Must Promptly Leave Bullpen. Relief pitchers shall leave the bullpen promptly following an appropriate signal by their manager or coach. During the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event.

5. Enforcement. Umpires shall direct players and enforce the inning break and pitching change time limits on the field. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline for just cause by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article XI(C) of the Basic Agreement.

III. Batter’s Box Rule

The batter’s box rule that was in effect during the 2017 season will remain in effect during the 2018 season.

IV. Video Replay Review

The following adjustments will be made to the video replay technology:

A. Install capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles for the 2018 championship season;

B. Install new phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

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About the author

John Strubel

Hi. My name is John Strubel. I am a storyteller. I love to write. My writing is predominantly related to my greatest passion in life: baseball. Thanks for visiting my website.

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Freelance Journalist

ABOUT AUTHOR

John Strubel

Hi. My name is John Strubel. I am a storyteller. I love to write. My writing is predominantly related to my greatest passion in life: baseball. Thanks for visiting my website.

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