MLB Proposes Two New Rule Changes for 2017
ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported Monday that Major League Baseball has made a few formal rule change proposals to the MLB players’ union.
The MLBPA is currently reaching out to players in an attempt to gauge interest in the changes brought forth by the league. MLB is seeking to do away with the rule that requires pitchers to lob four balls toward the plate in order to complete an intentional walk. They also want to raise the lower part of the strike zone to the top of a hitter’s knee.
The Rule Change Proposals
Since 1996, the bottom of the strike zone has been defined as “the hollow beneath the kneecap.” Data reportedly shows that umpires have been calling low strikes more often on pitches below the knees, however, which is why Major League Baseball wants to enforce a new, higher zone. The move would apparently raise the zone by about two inches.
As for the other rule, the league wants to end the practice of forcing pitchers to throw four unnecessary soft tosses outside the strike zone. Rather than waste the time on that, a team would simply signify that it intends to issue an intentional walk, and the hitter would proceed to first base without the unnecessary pitches.
Pace of Play Concern
ESPN says that both proposals are an attempt by commissioner Rob Manfred to try and speed up the pace of play. An intentional walk typically takes about one minute to complete, but the league is desperate to try and improve pace of play any way it can.
As for the strike zone alteration, Major League Baseball is also hoping the rule change will help put more balls into play. Data from last season showed that nearly 30 percent of all hitters either walked or struck out last year, which is the highest rate of “non-action” in the history of baseball. By raising the zone, the league is hoping that it will be easier for hitters to be aggressive and make more regular contact.
Will Changes Occur for 2017 Season?
The rules were reportedly proposed to the MLBPA in late January. The league is still awaiting word regarding how the players have responded to the new ideas, and the intentional walk rule is considered more likely to be implemented in the upcoming season than the strike zone change.
This alteration to the strike zone would theoretically help hitters and hurt pitchers, so it is difficult to imagine a consensus among the players being found on that front.
These rule changes were initially broached last year, but the two sides agreed to table the talks until after labor talks were completed. MLB and the MLBPA struck a new collective bargaining deal after the season, and the two sides are expected to continue discussing potential changes to the game to try and speed up the pace of the game.
Average Game Length
The average Major League Baseball game in 2016 took three hours and 26 seconds. By comparison, NBA games tend to last about two hours and 20 minutes, while NFL games take about three hours and five minutes.
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