Your Opening Day Emergency Guide to Baseball's New Pace-of-Game Rules
Back in February, new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA wasted no time and announced a new set of pace-of-play rules to chop a few minutes from the game's dragging duration without substantially altering the game itself. These rules should get the game moving along more quickly after television breaks and between innings so that cutting a few seconds here and there can end games sooner, so long as the new rules are enforced consistently. The MLB says these rules will be enforced through a "warning and fine system, with discipline resulting for flagrant violators." Here is your quick overview of what rule modifications to look for just in time for Opening Day's first pitch:
Batter's Box Rule
- Batters must keep one foot inside the box at all times unless an exception is present.
- Exceptions: (1) The batter swings at a pitch; (2) The batter has to move out of the box because of a pitch; (3) A member of either team asks for and is granted "Time" (e.g., for adjusting gloves, helmet); (4) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner on any base; (5) The batters fakes a bunt; (6) The pitcher leaves the dirt of the pitcher's mound after getting the ball; or (7) The catcher leaves the catcher's box in order to give defensive signals.
- This rule is practical because there is not much reason for a batter to stroll away from the box between pitches, but since batters may ask for additional time and the rule allows for a long list of exceptions, the overall impact likely will not be significant.
- The MLB is adding timers to measure non-game activity and breaks. Each ballpark has a timer installed on or near the outfield scoreboard and a timer behind home plate that begins a countdown immediately following the third out of every half-inning to tell players when they need to be ready for the next one. For locally televised games, there will be 2:25 minutes between each half-inning, and for nationally televised games, there will be 2:45 minutes between each half-inning.
- Additional timers and their corresponding action: (1) With 40 seconds remaining, the PA will announce the batter and begins to play the walk-up music; (2) With 30 seconds remaining, the pitcher throws his final warm up pitch, but he can throw as many as he wishes prior to that mark; (3) With 25 seconds remaining, the batter's walk-up music will end, regardless of how cool it is; (4) From 25 seconds to 5 seconds left, the batter is encouraged to enter the batter's box; and (5) Once the batter is in the box, the pitcher is expected to begin delivering the pitch prior to the timer reaching zero.
- In contrast from the Batter's Box Rule, fans, players, and staff alike should be happy about the effect these rules should have if they are followed and enforced. The average regular-season game in 2014 was the longest it has ever been in the database going back to 1950 - three hours and eight minutes - and spring games have apparently been going 20 minutes faster in some instances with these new timers.