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MLB Will Test Pace-Of-Game Changes In Arizona Fall League

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It's happening. Hope they find some ways to speed up games.

Brian Kersey

Last year, Major League Baseball tested out its current replay-review system in the Arizona Fall League. Those tests, plus some in spring training, helped the system become successful.

Now, MLB is going to use the AFL for further tests, these for trying to speed up the pace of games. Via MLB press release, here's what they will be doing:

· Batter’s Box Rule: The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout his at-bat, unless one of a series of established exceptions occurs, in which case the batter may leave the batter’s box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate. (Exceptions include a foul ball or a foul tip; a pitch forcing the batter out of the batter’s box; "time" being requested and granted; a wild pitch or a passed ball; and several others.)

· No-Pitch Intentional Walks: In the event a team decides to intentionally walk a batter, no pitches shall be thrown. Instead, the manager shall signal to the home plate umpire with four fingers, and the batter should proceed to first base to become a runner.

· 20-Second Rule [AT 17 SALT RIVER FIELDS HOME GAMES ONLY]: A modified version of Rule 8.04, which discourages unnecessary delays by the pitcher, shall apply. Rule 8.04 requires the pitcher to deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball with the bases unoccupied. The penalty prescribed by Rule 8.04 for a pitcher’s violation of the Rule is that the umpire shall call "Ball."

· 2:05 Inning Break Clock: There shall be a maximum 2:05 break between innings. Hitters must enter the batter’s box by the 1:45 mark. When batters violate this rule, the Umpire may call an automatic strike. When batters are set by the appropriate time and pitchers fail to throw a pitch before the conclusion of the 2:05 period, the Umpire shall call a ball.

· 2:30 Pitching Change Break Clock: There shall be a maximum 2:30 break for pitching changes, including pitching changes that occur during an inning break. The first pitch must be thrown before the conclusion of the 2:30 period or the umpire shall call a ball. The clock shall start when the new pitcher enters the playing field (i.e., crosses the warning track, or foul line).

· Three "Time Out" Limit: Each team shall be permitted only three "Time Out" conferences per game (including extra innings). Such conferences shall include player conferences with the pitcher (including the catcher), manager or coach conferences with the pitcher, and coach conferences with a batter. Conferences during pitching changes, and time outs called as a result of an injury or other emergency, shall not be counted towards this limit. A manager, coach or player will not be permitted to call a fourth time out in violation of this Rule. In such cases, the game will continue uninterrupted, and offenders may be subject to discipline.

Well. All but the "no-pitch intentional walk" are either enforcing existing rules or trying to put limits on time spent doing various things (inning breaks, mound conferences). I'm not so sure I like the "no-pitch intentional walk" rule. For one thing, intentional walks were never cited as a reason games were slow-paced. They don't take that much time and there aren't that many in any individual game. Plus, there's always the possibility that a pitcher will throw a wild pitch during one. I'd leave intentional walks alone.

Also, in regard to batters stepping out: the "time" exception is the one that could be abused. Hitters could keep asking for "time." In general, umpires have always granted these requests. The only way to stop hitters from doing this to stall would be for umpires to not grant multiple requests for "time" during an at-bat. I hope they monitor this closely.

The press release also said:

Major League Baseball will continue to study potential modifications to its system of instant replay. The 17 home games scheduled at Salt River Fields will feature the review system currently utilized in all MLB games, with connectivity to MLB’s Replay Operations Center at MLB Advanced Media in New York. Those games will be played under experimental regulations, pertaining to the scope of replay, review initiation, time limits and other factors.

But good for MLB for testing these possible rule changes. The mere fact that they're doing this means that we will likely see some of them implemented for the 2015 regular season. And that's a good thing, in my view.