MLB News

Thoughts on MLB rule changes

-Commissioner Rob Manfred chats with fans during his Town Hall at #FanFest.

So yesterday Major League Baseball instituted some new rule changes in advance of the 2017 regular season. Some are good, some are not so good, and some are fine. I’m going to go through them here one by one and give a few quick thoughts on each new rule.

The start of a no-pitch intentional walk, allowing the defensive team’s manager to signal a decision to the home plate umpire to intentionally walk the batter. Following the signal of the manager’s intention, the umpire will immediately award first base to the batter. 

This rule comes as the latest installment in the continuous pace-of-game crusade being waged by Rob Manfred against the game of baseball. The reasoning behind the rule is, rather than wait the 30 seconds or so it takes for a pitcher to throw four intentional balls to a hitter, it will be faster to just automatically send the hitter to first. Makes sense. Sort of. Not really. I hate it.

In 2016 there were 932 IBB issued in MLB games. In 2016 there were 4,856 MLB games played. Using some quick and simple math, that gives us an average of 0.19 intentional walks every game, or about 1 intentional walk every 5 games. So, this new rule saves less than one minute of game time every 5 games, which will do virtually nothing to bring down the average pace of game.

What it does do is rob the game of some of it’s finest moments. Just last season we saw Gary Sanchez nearly launch a ball out of the park during an at bat where he was supposed to be getting intentionally walked. It ended up resulting in an RBI sac fly. That’s baseball. Make the pitchers pitch to the batters. It’s a game of uncertainties. Why take that away?

It should be noted that the rule isn’t mandatory, so managers can still call for a traditional intentional walk if they want to give a guy more time to get warmed up in the bullpen or something like that. In just about any other situation though, no manager is going to risk letting his pitcher throw four balls to a hitter if he doesn’t have to.

Bad rule.

A 30-second limit for a manager to decide whether to challenge a play and invoke replay review. 

This seems fine to me, and I don’t really have much to say about it. 30 seconds should be plenty enough time for a team’s staff to decide whether or not they ought to challenge a play.

Fine rule.

When a manager has exhausted his challenges for the game, Crew Chiefs may now invoke replay review for non-home run calls beginning in the eighth inning instead of the seventh inning. 

This one I’m not so crazy about. It’s more in line with the NFL’s challenge rule within 2-minutes of the end of a half. Sure, it usually seems like plays at the end of a game feel more significant, but as we know, in baseball literally every single play at any point in the game counts for something. I don’t see the merit in moving umpire reviews back an inning, again, just to save a small amount of game time. A bad call in the 7th can be just as impactful on the outcome of a game as a bad call in the 9th.

Bad rule.

A conditional two-minute guideline for Replay Officials to render a decision on a replay review, allowing various exceptions.  

Super vague rule. Probably won’t be strictly enforced, especially since this is a rule for umpires and they’re the ones calling the games. I don’t see this changing much.

Fine rule.

A prohibition on the use of any markers on the field that could create a tangible reference system for fielders. 

This might seem like a strange rule, but it’s a pretty targeted one. At first, because of the way it’s worded, it might seem like this rule will get rid of the warning track on baseball fields. It won’t.  It’s pretty much directly in response to the Los Angeles Dodgers allegedly using laser beams to position their outfielders based on their analytics data. Has saber metrics gone too far? Maybe in this case. What the Dodgers did sort of detracts from the human element of the game, so I’m actually in favor of this one.

Good rule.

An addition to rule 5.07 formalizes an umpire interpretation by stipulating that a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is at least one runner on base, then such an action will be called as a balk under Rule 6.02 (a). If the bases are unoccupied, then it will be considered an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b). 

Uh oh, Carter Capps. What have you done? This new adage is being deemed the “Carter Capps Rule”, as it is essentially put in place to outlaw this doozy of a wind-up that Capps has been using in bullpen sessions this spring:

That just looks illegal right? Well now it is. The good news for Capps is that he was never going to actually throw like this in games. He was only using it in bullpen sessions as he regains strength in his arm after his elbow injury from last season, which placed him on the 60-day DL. Capps’s usual delivery, which is still wonky as hell, is still legal even with the new rule:

041315_carter_capps_mid_res_20hdupca

I’ll do my best to explain why. In the first video, you can clearly see Capps taking two hops, one from the rubber and then another as he pushes off the dirt of the mound to propel himself forward. We’ll call it the hop-hop-drag. In the second video, Capps just takes the one hop off the rubber, after which his foot never actually leaves the ground as he drags it against the dirt on the mound. We’ll call it the hop-drag.

In the hop-hop-drag, Capps is propelling himself forward at two moment, when his foot leaves the rubber, and when he lands, resets his pivot foot, and pushes off against the mound for the second hop. That’s no good. In the hop-drag, Capps is only propelling himself forward one time, when his foot leaves the rubber. He never actually resets his pivot foot after this. It just drags along the mound until he finishes his throwing motion. This is fine.

It’s funny that a video from a spring training bullpen session may have prompted MLB to institute a new rule change, but it’s a pretty sound change nonetheless. What Capps does in that video should never be done in a real life MLB game. If it was allowed, we might eventually see pitchers hopping the ball all the way into the catcher’s mitt.

Good rule.

An Amendment to Rule 5.03 requires base coaches to position themselves behind the line of the coach’s box closest to home plate and the front line that runs parallel to the foul line prior to each pitch. Once a ball is put in play, a base coach is allowed to leave the coach’s box to signal a player so long as the coach does not interfere with play. 

This rule doesn’t change much either. Coach’s boxes have existed for a long time, and umpires usually never strictly enforce them. This is basically just a reiteration of a preexisting rule that will likely have zero impact on the outcome of any future games. In other words, I could care less.

Fine rule.

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