MLB reportedly pitches two key rule changes in effort to speed up games
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has made no secret of his desire to speed up the pace of play during games, and it appears baseball is trying to take some tangible steps in that direction.
ESPN.com reported Monday that MLB submitted proposals to the players’ union last month that would raise the strike zone and eliminate the need for pitchers to deliver four balls on an intentional walk. The commissioner’s office first floated the changes last year but did not submit them to be enacted until January.
The latter initiative would seem to have a greater chance of being enacted, but it also doesn’t figure to make much of an impact on the overall pace of play. ESPN notes that pitchers issued 932 intentional walks last season, or just one every 5.2 games. But having a batter simply take his base after the decision to issue an intentional walk is made certainly would speed up the process a bit.
Any tinkering with the strike zone would be far more controversial — and more difficult to enforce, particularly given that zones already vary from umpire to umpire even though everyone is technically following the same rulebook.
According to the rulebook, the zone is supposed to run from the “hollow beneath the kneecap” of the batter to the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the pants. The new proposal would raise the bottom of the zone to the top of the batter’s knees.
Though shrinking the strike zone could in theory lead to more walks, ESPN says MLB believes it actually will produce more balls in play, and thus more action.
If approved by the players, the rule changes could go into effect for the 2017 season. But that decision would have to come quickly, with spring training games set to begin Feb. 22.