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Pick up the Pace: MLB Revisits Pace of Play

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Rob Manfred still isn’t satisfied with the length of major league games. In 2016, ESPN reported that MLB pace of play length had extended to three hours and 26 seconds. This occurred despite rule changes made during the 2015 season, which did result in an average below three hours.

Rule changes up to this point have targeted manager challenges, pitching change timing, inning change timing and even batter’s box foot placement. Furthermore, the MLB continues to experiment with a visible clock that appears to keep the pace, but additional changes appear to be imminent.

A list of previous experimental rules can be found here, but today The Game Haus takes a look potential changes coming for the 2017 season.

Possible Changes to MLB Pace of Play

Free Intentional Walks

MLB Pace of Play
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

First and least impactful will be removing the age old tradition of intentionally tossing four balls to the catcher before the batter can claim his base. Changing this rule is useless on a few levels.

First off is the obvious lack of impact given that an intentional walk occurs approximately once every three games. Additionally, intentional walks rarely last more than 60 seconds. If each team gets its equal share, that rounds out to about 31 IBB’s in a 162 game season. Thank you Rob Manfred for saving the youth and their short attention spans.

Furthermore there are the occasional fun and wacky things that happens when you least expect them…

Like these:


If this is baseball’s way of saving time or attempting to show progressive change, there may be a better way.

Raising the Strike Zone

MLB Pace of Play
(Courtesy Sportsvision)

The second rule proposal is slightly more interesting. The resulting change would raise the lower border of the strike zone from “the hollow beneath the knee cap” to the top of the hitter’s knees.

The rationale behind this change is the result of rising walk and strikeout rates among players. The general idea here is to bring additional pitches into the batters normal swing path. Clearly this is designed to create more contact, put additional balls in play, and decrease hitters time spent at the plate.

Never mind the fact that this flies in the face of a ruling that dates back to 1887 (thanks to the internet we have a chronological evolution of the strike zone, credit Baseball-Almanac). This particular ruling “strikes” me as wishful thinking. This assumes player and umpire adjustment derived from simply stating the zone has moved the rough equivalent of two inches.

Changing human perception of a strike zone that has been ingrained into these individuals since they were 10 years old could be a challenge. That said, there is certainly no harm in testing this theory. Other than true baseball purists and pitching duel enthusiasts, most fans would enjoy seeing the ball in play more often. If this change somehow generates increased offense and forces pitchers to get more creative, it looks like a win-win.

Honorable Mentions

These are rules that have been casually rumored but don’t appear to have any short term impact for the time being.

  • Managers requested to complete faster pitching changes
  • 20 additional seconds off the between-innings clock
  • Player starting at second during extra innings
  • Additional enforcement of “one foot in the batter’s box at all times” rule

Currently any changes will have to be approved by the players union and will likely be piloted during Spring Training. That said, with only a few short days until pitchers and catchers report, it would appear the 2017 rules will likely remain the same. Baseball has traditionally been a sport where change has been frowned upon, and it certainly doesn’t appear that mentality will change any time soon.


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