Pace of play has been one of the most talked about aspects in baseball over the last few seasons. Speeding up the game to appeal to more people has become a focal point. Today it was reported by Jon Morosi that a pitch clock and a limit on mound visits are the main topics on the agenda.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 8, 2018
While it’s unclear what rules could take effect, Morosi noted that the MLB could push for a 20-second pitch clock. The pitch clock has been in the minor leagues for a few seasons now, and has worked well. Adding a pitch clock was mentioned earlier in the offseason, and while it could speed up games it could also cause issues. Buster Olney noted back in November that a 20-second limit would be a big jump for some pitchers, Pedro Baez being a good example.
According to data published by Fangraphs, no starting pitcher who qualified for the ERA title averaged under 20 seconds between pitches in 2017; the average was about 23.5 seconds. Pedro Baez of the Dodgers was the slowest-working reliever at 31.1 seconds between pitches.
As for limiting catcher mound visits, it seems less likely but will still be pushed for. While it could speed up games, it could cause communication issues between pitcher and catcher. While it remains a possibility, Morosi noted that the same rule was brought up last offseason and was shot down.
Last offseason, MLB proposed a limit of one mound visit by a catcher per pitcher, per inning, as first reported by USA Today. The MLBPA raised concerns, including the risk of cross-ups between pitchers and catchers. Many mound visits occur because catchers feel compelled to change signs to prevent baserunners from relaying signs to hitters; without those conversations, the MLBPA has suggested confusion could put catchers — and umpires — at increased risk of being hit by pitches.
One more potential rule change that was mentioned by Morosi was potentially moving the strikezone. This would include moving the bottom of the zone to the top of the hitter’s kneecap. While this could also help speed up games, it appears unlikely to happen.
The masses are split on the best way to handle pace of play. While quicker games would be welcomed by many, traditional fans may have issues. Baseball is considered to be the timeless sport, so adding a pitch clock could understandably rub some the wrong way. While it’s unclear what rules will pass, we should get some clarity soon with meetings taking place this week.
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