New pace of play initiatives have been a topic of ongoing discussion for a couple of years now. It has been a debate that has yielded little agreement between Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA, with the MLBPA rejecting each new proposal that Manfred comes up with. The difference between the two sides is that Manfred believes that these new MLB rule changes will help shorten the length of each game and bring in new fans along with it. The MLBPA, on the other hand, sees these rule changes as the destruction of the game that they know and love.
Just recently, commissioner Rob Manfred created a new proposal for his pace of play initiatives that the MLBPA quickly rejected. The main components to this proposal were the same as the original proposal made last year, but there were a few minor changes.
One difference between the two proposals is that instead of pitchers having a 20 second pitch clock for all situations, runners on or not, pitchers would instead have an 18 second pitch clock only when runners are not on base. I believe the latest proposal of this rule is more beneficial to the players than the old one. Even though pitchers would have less time, I believe it is more important to not time pitchers while runners are on base. If this does get implemented, runners would most likely have a higher success rate at stealing bases as they could more accurately time their jumps based on how much time left the pitcher has to throw the baseball. This addition would take out a lot of strategy that pitchers have while there are runners on base, and just simply put pitchers at a bigger disadvantage. In the latest proposal, however, the 20 second pitch clock for all situations would be implemented if the average length of games for the prior season was 3 hours or more, or if the average length of games increased by 5 minutes or more. This means the pitch clock might be unavoidable all together if the pace of play does not improve from the new changes to come.
A slighter change that was made with the new proposal was that teams would have 35 seconds between batters instead of 30. I believe having a time limit for how long it takes batters to get into the box will help speed up the length of games slightly, but not enough to where it will really make an effect. Nevertheless, it is an easy adjustment for batters to make without changing the game too drastically.
The penalty for violating either of the timers mentioned remains the same in both proposals. If a pitcher were to violate the pitch clock, the batter would be awarded a ball to his count. If a batter were to violate his timer, a strike would be added to his count. Every batter and pitcher however does have one warning before the penalty would be assessed. Now the real difference between the proposals on this is when the penalty will be implemented. In the original proposal, this penalty would come into effect on Opening Day of 2018. In the latest proposal, the penalty would take effect on May 1st, 2018. In the latter proposal, the players would have an adjustment period to the pitch clock and timer instead of just being penalized right away like they will with the original proposal.
A final key aspect for the two proposals is mound visits. In the original proposal, pitchers would only get one mound visit per inning by anyone, with a pitching change needing to be made if a second mound visit were to occur. This means that if a catcher went to the mound to calm down his pitcher, and then later in the same inning a coach came out to talk to the same pitcher, a pitching change would then have to be made. In the new proposal, it would simply just be six mound visits per game. It wouldn’t matter if a new pitcher came in or not, it would strictly be a total of six mound visits for the entirety of the game. In this instance, it is hard to pinpoint which rule would be better for players. On one hand, you are guaranteed at least nine mound visits, but on the other hand, if your pitcher needs two in one inning, you are out of luck.
After looking over all of the rule changes from both proposals, I believe that the MLBPA would have just been better off accepting the latest proposal instead of rejecting it. With the players rejecting the latest proposal, commissioner Rob Manfred can unilaterally implement the original proposal that he proposed last year due to his position and power. This means that whether or not the MLBA agrees with the rules proposed, they are going to be initiated one way or another, and gaining the benefits of the latest proposal instead of the negatives of the original proposal would have better suited the players come the 2018 season.
All in all, I personally do not believe that the pace of play initiatives will be that helpful. Yes, the initiatives will make games a little bit shorter, but most likely only by about 15 minutes tops. Reducing games by 15 minutes will not make people who previously found baseball boring think that it is not boring. All it will do is make the game a little bit shorter for fans who already love the game the way that it is. Even then, with these pace of play initiatives, pitchers might feel rushed and make more mistake pitches, increasing the amount of batters per inning, and making innings even longer than they were before, counteracting the new rule changes all together.
There are still a lot of question marks surrounding these rules, and the best we can do right now is sit back and see how everything turns out.
By: Logan Stevens (@Round_TheBases)