It wouldn't require any rule changes nor any new wrinkles to the way baseball is played, but a new proposal by Major League Baseball could help cut quite a bit of time off games, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark:
Under a new proposal by Major League Baseball, pitchers would be required to finish their warm-up pitches and be ready to make their first pitch of an inning 30 seconds before the end of all between-inning commercial breaks, sources told ESPN.com. Similarly, hitters would have to be in the batter's box, ready to start their at-bats, 20 seconds before the end of each break. Both proposals are designed to tighten the time between half-innings, which has grown, on average, to more than three minutes, even though regular-season commercial breaks during games that are not nationally televised are supposed to last just 2 minutes, 5 seconds. Baseball officials believe that if play is ready to resume moments after each break ends, they could shorten games by 10 to 15 minutes. Just those efforts alone would bring the average game time to below three hours without enacting any other pace-of-game measures.
I really like this idea. It wouldn't shorten the inning break, but instead of hitters dilly-dallying while they wait for their walkup music and pitchers taking their leisurely time warming up, when TV channels come back from their 2:05 commercial breaks, action would start right away. I know we sometimes see certain TV channels miss the first pitch now -- but that's likely because they're trying to squeeze more commercials than will fit in that 2:05 time, or they start running them late.
"Nationally televised" refers only to games Fox-TV does on Saturday or the ESPN Sunday night game. It doesn't apply to a midweek game that ESPN covers that's also being carried on local teams' channels -- those still have the 2:05 inning-break time.
This is an excellent way of trying to tighten up action and make the games feel a bit faster-paced without changing anything once play actually begins. Yes, it would make pitchers and hitters be ready to start a half-inning perhaps a bit faster than they've become used to in recent years. To me, that's a good thing. (And it gave me another excuse to use this awesome photo of Alcides Escobar.)
I hope MLB implements this plan before Opening Day. (H/T to @rappelsauce for alerting me to this story.)