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No MLB Pitch Clock In 2015, But Other Rules Could Change

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If you're looking for the game to speed up its pace, one thing won't happen this year -- a pitch clock.

A clock counts down as Jace Peterson bats in an AFL game last October 14
A clock counts down as Jace Peterson bats in an AFL game last October 14
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If you watched some of the televised Arizona Fall League games in 2014, you saw a first-time experiment: a clock counting down 20 seconds in between pitches with no one on base. The purpose of this clock, along with some other experimental rules, was to speed up the pace of games. The experiments did provide some success, as various reports indicated that the pace and time of games in the AFL were both quicker than the previous fall.

There won't be a pitch clock in the major leagues in 2015, though, reports Jon Morosi of Fox Sports:

The pitch clock received the greatest amount of attention because it was the most radical proposal relative to established baseball practices. Red Sox prospect Keith Couch, who pitched for the league’s Surprise Saguaros, said the 20 seconds were "more than enough time to get your sign and deliver." Reds outfield prospect Kyle Waldrop agreed that the pitch clock was effective, saying it "kept the rhythm of the pitchers at a good pace and the pace of the game quicker." However, sources say the pitch clock has insufficient support among MLB and the MLB Players Association to be implemented in 2015.

That's fair. A clock would be a pretty radical change for a sport that's always prided itself on not being timed, as are other major sports like basketball, football, soccer and hockey. Nevertheless, there is a rule on the books that provides for a time limit between pitches, and in my view it ought to be enforced. Perhaps they just need more trials to work out exactly how this would be implemented. I'd expect more experiments in next October's AFL.

Even though there won't be a pitch clock, Morosi reports that owners will consider the following rule changes (and possibly others) when they meet next week in Arizona:

-- A rule mandating that hitters keep one foot in the batter’s box between pitches, with exceptions that include foul balls, wild pitches, and timeouts being granted. "The one-foot-in-the-box rule is somewhat in effect in the minor leagues, anyway," said Mike Mordecai, a 12-year big leaguer who managed the Mesa Solar Sox. "I only had one or two players say anything to me concerning that rule."

"I did like the batter keeping at least one foot in the box," said Waldrop, the Reds prospect. "However, I saw two guys get called out on strikes for stepping out of the box with two strikes. I don’t ever think the bat should be taken out of someone’s hands. I don’t think the fans would want to see that [either]."

-- A rule stipulating that runners must slide directly into second base on double plays, as opposed to deviating from their paths with a takeout slide. "Sliding into second will cut down on injuries, both for the fielder and the runner," Mordecai said. "Quite frankly, there aren’t a lot of guys that really know how to bust up double plays. They slide early and never quite get to the fielder."

I like both those ideas. The first will definitely help speed up games even without a clock. The second would avoid the Matt Holliday-type slides that appear intended to do things other than just break up double plays.

Morosi also says that replay review rules could be modified and that the catcher-collision rule (7.13) will get another look:

For now, the essence of Rule 7.13 remains that (a) runners can’t deviate from their pathway to make contact with the catcher (or another player covering the plate), and (b) catchers must be in possession of the ball in order to block the path of a runner trying to score.

I would imagine any changes in the last two (replay and 7.13) will get real workouts during spring-training games.