AFL to be Used as a Testing Ground for Faster Games

Major League Baseball has some ideas on how to speed up the game and they plan to try them out during the Arizona Fall League. The following rules will be in place when teams take the field for the AFL Opener on Tuesday:

– Intentional walks can now just be called for by the manager with no pitches necessary.

– Shorter breaks between innings, with the batters getting into the batter’s box within 1:45 of the previous inning ending and the pitcher must throw the ball before the 2:05 mark. The batter can be assessed a strike, while the pitcher will be charged with a ball for a violation.

– Going off the last rule, once the inning starts, the batter must remain in the batter’s box(under normal circumstances) and the pitcher must throw the ball within 20 seconds of receiving it. The latter rule will only be enforced during games played at Salt River, where they will also use the replay system.

– Visits to the mound from coaches, managers and other players will be limited to three per game/team. There is no on-field penalty for violating this rule, though MLB said the violators could be disciplined. It doesn’t include pitching changes during innings.

– The last rule is one that will encourage pitchers to hustle from the bullpen during pitching changes. Once they enter the playing field, they have 2:30 before they must throw the first pitch or a ball will be called.

The rules as a group should speed up play, though on their own they won’t make much of a difference in most cases. Some pitchers are very slow to the plate, so if you get the right starting pitcher, it could really affect the time of game. The batters staying in the box rule is another that will help more for certain players. It’s for normal circumstances only, so a ball or called strike applies, while a foul ball or wild pitch(for example) won’t be a violation.

The visits to the mound is one I don’t agree with to a point because the same rule applies all game, even into extra innings. It will keep a catcher from constant visits, but there are some situations that a player is used to visiting the mound quickly as a reminder, which will need to be eliminated, such as changing the signals with a runner on second. Those visits usually take 10-15 seconds tops and are done while a batter is getting in the box. Some situations are just too big not to discuss what is going on, but the coach/catcher will need to make that call during the game and try to count/remember their visits during a game. It’s possible that the discipline for a violation will be so small that teams will be willing to break it for key spots.

Some people probably won’t like the “no pitch” intentional walk because it eliminates the possibility of a wild pitch, stolen base, balk or anything like that, which could have an effect on the outcome. There aren’t that many intentional walks in baseball that this rule will noticeably slow down games either. There were 985 intentional walks issued this year, approximately one every five games and they usually go fairly quick, much quicker than four normal pitches, so I don’t see a big need for it.

  • Some are these are interesting, but in my opinion useless. Stopping the running game is really what slows down the game, and all the pitching changes late in games. usually the last third of the game takes twice as long as either of the first two thirds of the game do individually. Unless we limit throws over, step-offs, and catcher, pitcher conferences, nothing will change. I would think 1 catcher/pitcher conference per inning without a coach, with any second creating a ball would be a reasonable mix. Maybe no more than 2 throw overs before a pitch is thrown, would add a little more excitement into the running game, forcing more pitchouts if they really want to stop the guy. I think stolen bases are one of the most exciting plays in the game, so i would be for that

  • I am probably in the minority on this issue, but honestly I have no problem with the length of a baseball game. The average time for the game is 3 hrs. 8 minutes and it is based on a number of innings to be played (9). A NFL game which uses “time” to play of 60 minutes has an average time of 3 hours 5 minutes.

    In addition, baseball is played for the most part in the summer, when a day/evening at the park is in my opinion, the most relaxing thing that can happen to me. I enjoy just sitting in the sun in a day game, and relax under the stars of a night game. I realize that a batter stepping out is trying to plan his attack and the pitcher on the mound is trying to setup their counter measure. Baseball is a laid back game with constant mental moves between primarily a batter/pitcher.

    Football on the other hand is played mainly in the fall and winter. Their is little pleasure to be found sitting on frozen seats and shivering ones butt off all game. One goes to it instead for the “adrenalin” rush it provides and seeks to pleasure the “wreck havoc” that we all feel at times as human beings, and where instead of it being a relaxing balm, its a symphony of noise of bodies clashing, taunts, and grunts. The mental aspect of the game is being done on the sidelines via photographs and headphones.

    I am not knocking football here. I love to watch it and I am a long time Steeler’s fan, long before it became fashionable to be one. Rather I am trying to say in my own humble way that baseball, with its pace, is the perfect retreat for many of us who just want to sit back with some peanuts and a soda, and just enjoy the day/night, while at the same time enjoying the sport in front of us. We do not need a game clock in baseball.

    • The only time I’ve ever complained about the time of a game is when I’m covering the game and it’s pushing back other writing I have to do. Otherwise, I don’t mind the time. If I’m going to make my way out to a game, I don’t want it over as quick as possible, I’ve usually planned my day around it.

      • I don’t think it’s actually duration that turns people off. Nobody complains about 3 hour high scoring affairs, after all.

        Pace is what people are actually talking about when they complain about how long games take.

        • I agree with you about the pace of the game but the time is also important.
          just think if a weekday game started at 6:30 and ended 9;00.
          Working people could attend the game and get home at a decent time as it is now people get home at around midnight, also there would be an attendance jump that would benefit MLB because older kids could attend the games on school nights.
          People are always afraid of change but if baseball would make changes to speed up the game over time those changes would become the norm and fans and players would accept them and think nothing of it.

          • teenagers do not go to bed any earlier than their parents do. Starting a game at 6:30 is quite reasonable though,although how much different does 30 minutes make in most people’s lives

      • I agree- there is no need to shorten a game, if its over too late at night for the kids, well that’s what the weekend is for. Adults that can’t stay up past 10:30 are just ridiculous anyways. If you don’t like baseball, go home. Dont buy tickets. For as much as the games cost, I’d rather be there as long as possible. Extra innings are free product as far as i’m concerned

  • Most of the time when MLB makes rule changes they do a poor job of thinking them through. Most of these will never happen, in fact I don’t know if any of them will happen in a MLB game. Speeding up the pitcher is probably the only one that I can see happening, because pitching coaches and managers like pitchers pitching in rhythm, the union will go for that one IMO. I do not like relief pitchers running in from center field, they played games in 2 1/2 hours and relief pitchers walked in from the bullpen years ago, maybe be should look at some of those games and try to figure out how they did back in the day. When Gibson pitched everyone was afraid to go to the mound, he did not want anyone showing up on his mound.

    • Funny you should mention that. A couple months ago, I went back and watched game 7 of the ’71 world series, and that game was about 2 1/2 hours. The single biggest thing that I saw that made the time difference was that the batter for the most part stayed in the batters box, often only moving one leg out of the batters box, so they couldn’t be quick pitched, and the pitchers didn’t hold the ball so long on the mound. But honestly, I also was wondering, how many pitches did a pitcher really have back then? Blass threw a fastball and a curve. Maybe a change up. Their wasn’t the 2 seam fastball, the 4 seam fastball, the slider, the slurve, or any number of pitches that they have to work with today with the catcher/pitcher trying to be on the same page. I am thinking that the catcher either flashed fastball or curve, and the pitcher just threw the called pitch. This is purely surmise on my part so please don’t ask me for my “source” LOL. I also don’t know how long “commercial” breaks were back then, so that could also skew the time element of the game. Also, Blass pitched a complete game, thereby speeding up the game as well. Today, with all the bullpen moves, that helps to increase the time of the game as well.

    • go back to the 80s with golf carts bringing in relief pitchers

  • 1. Stop all of the batter time outs being allowed
    2. Why play 9 innings? Make it 7.

    • Less baseball isn’t the answer, unless you don’t really like watching baseball.

      • 7 innings, 4 outs per inning? Love watching baseball, hate watching commercial breaks.

        • Hmm. Four outs would result in more runs, which should please some folks. It could happen.

    • No reason to do anything crazy. Just get the batter in the box and the pitcher on the mound and limit conferences without making a pitching change per inning (we don’t need a mound visit for every pinch hitter). They could shorten inning breaks, but that will never happen, too much revenue involved.

    • I have thought about the 7 inning, 4 outs per inning game as well (one more out per game). The average time between innings this year was about 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Eliminating changing sides 4 times saves about 10 minutes per game.

      I think it would lead to a more exciting game. First you could have the quadruple play. Second, teams would place a greater emphasis on sacrifice hits and strategically placed batted balls.

      The downside is that starting pitching would take a serious hit. Imagine a single 50-60 pitch inning knocking a starter from the game.

    • thats ridiculous

  • When I coached teams made up of a blend of HS/College players (same as Legion Ball or the semi-pro league in Pittsburgh), these were almost exactly the same rules, and that was 20 years ago here in Tennessee. Coach just calls out to the ump, puts 4 fingers up and the batter goes to 1B; the batter can take a sign, but has to keep one foot in the batters box – no walk-arounds to let the ump know you think he blew a call, and no 10-15 seconds so everybody could watch you adjust your batting gloves. I am glad to see changes being attempted in MLB.

    • I think the difference between 20 years ago and now is that I don’t remember anyone saying the games were too long back then, so there wasn’t a need for it. The thing I don’t understand is that football games keep getting longer and the sport is as popular as ever(maybe not right this second with all the stuff going on). No one except me calls for shorter football games and I only did it because it was interfering with the Simpsons on Sunday nights. I couldn’t imagine if baseball just decided to take a half hour break after the fifth inning.

  • John,

    Has the 7th inning stretch been eliminated with the 1:45 / 2:05 rule regarding time between innings?

    • That’s a good question. I couldn’t see them enforcing the rule for a team that decides to play God Bless America during the break because that’s always followed by Take Me Out to the Ballgame anytime I’ve been to the game and that break is noticeably longer. I don’t think anyone complains about that stuff either, so there is probably some leeway that half inning.

      • John,

        I watched a runner be awarded home on a force play this year because Russell Martin was ruled to be blocking the plate. I watched George Brett get called out on a home run because the pine tar on his bat was too high. Any rule is going to be exploited for advantage.

        The seventh inning stretch happens to occur before the home team takes AB’s in the 7th inning. All that would need to happen is for the away team to start pitching at 2:05 and demand balls and strikes be called.

        The rule applies to both the home team and away team. The home team may want to have the extra time between innings. The away team – pitching in the bottom of the 7th – may not want it.

        FYI, a little history on the 7th inning stretch can be found here:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventh-inning_stretch

        I had heard of the Howard Taft thing in 1910, but didn’t realize the tradition has older reported origins.

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