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MLB Roundup 1/19: The pitch clock, and more, is coming to baseball

Pace of play changes are here whether you’re ready or not.

MLB: World Series-Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

MLB to unilaterally implement new pace of play rules

Ever since he took over as commissioner, and really over the last few years, Rob Manfred has been somewhat obsessed with pace of play issues. Some, myself included, would argue that there are more important things he should be dealing with if he truly wants to grow the game — better marketing of stars, more accessible streaming rules and a bigger focus on social media, just to name a few — but I also agree pace of play is something of an issue. I think the focus has been too much on the straight game time, but in my eyes the problem is with the flow of the game. There’s always some downtime in baseball, it’s literally part of the game, but things have been taken to an extreme with mound visits, slow pitchers and pitching changes. With all of this in mind, MLB has made various proposals over the last few years to address this, and in the last CBA they ensured they were allowed to add these rules without approval from MLBPA. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that they’ll do just that, and Jeff Passan takes it even further with the specifics of MLB’s plan. A few thoughts on all of this.

  • The first point, and it’s one that has been made by so many people at this point, is that the Players Union should not be letting this opportunity get away without getting some sort of concession. The plan seems to be to use this as a PR opportunity, as fans are generally against the ideas, but that’s never a good idea. It’s not everyday where the MLBPA gets a chance at something they want, and to just let this go by while sitting on their hands doesn’t make sense. It’s another sign that Tony Clark is not doing a good job in his position at the head of the union.
  • That being said, I really don’t mind many of the rules. Let’s go one by one. The first and biggest one is the pitch clock. MLB originally had proposed an 18-second clock that shuts off with runners on base, but now they are planning on a 20-second clock that will run for every at bat. Pitchers will get one warning per game, and after that they’ll be called for an automatic ball every time they go over their allotted time. I’ve thought the pitch clock has worked well in the minors, and while there’s no guarantee it’ll translate as well to the majors it’s worth a shot.
  • There is also a 30-second clock for batters to be ready to start an at bat. The original proposal was 35 seconds. This is another good change, as it can be infuriating when hitters just don’t get in the box. Passan doesn’t make clear what the penalty would be, but I’d assume it’ll be an automatic strike.
  • The biggest change in my eyes is the new restrictions on mound visits. MLB is planning to institute a rule in which the second visit to the mound from anyone in an inning will result in an automatic pitching change. So, if the coach comes out for a visit then the shortstop comes to the mound for a conference, the pitcher needs to leave the game. This seems too extreme in my eyes. I agree that something needs to be done about mound visits, but this seems as if it will just result in even more inadvertent pitching changes as players will accidentally visit the mound for a second time in an inning. Generally speaking I think these rules are fine, but this one needs a tweak.
  • Keep in mind that none of this is official. MLB and the MLBPA are still planning on meeting again, though the consensus seems to be that the two sides are too far away to come to an agreement. It seems all but certain that the league will pass some sort of rule with or without the union soon, and these are the likeliest changes.