MLB to Replace Four-Pitch Intentional Walk with Signal from Dugout in Effort to Speed Up Games
Major League Baseball and the players’ union have approved a change to rules concerning intentional walks. From now on managers will be able to call an intentional walk from the dugout. Pitchers will no longer have to lob four pitches to the catcher.
The rule change comes as part of MLB’s continued efforts to pick up the pace of games. Two years ago they instituted the pace of play clock, which counted down the time players have to get their butts off the bench and into the field between innings. Earlier this month they announced that they are going to experiment with having teams start extra innings with a runner on second. Now they’ve officially eliminated the four-pitch intentional walk.
Unfortunately, there’s just one problem with the rule: it won’t actually speed up games.
The old-fashioned way of intentionally walking a batter takes about one minute. However, intentional walks are in decline. Last year there were only 932 of them, which was just one every 2.6 games. Thus, the new rule will only save fans one minute every 2.6 games, or approximately 14 seconds per game. Which is course is nothing. And it comes at the expense of eliminated some of the wacky, unpredictable stuff that actually makes baseball fun—like a wild throw going over a catcher’s head and allowing a run to score, or a batter reaching out and smacking a throw that got to close to the plate for an easy base hit.
If MLB really wants to speed up baseball games—and they should, because they’re too long—they need to crack down on the time players and batters waste between pitches, coaching visits, timeouts, and the amount of time it takes them to make decisions on replay reviews. That’s the stuff that takes too long and makes July baseball boring.
As for intentional walks, if MLB wants to make games more fun, get rid of those altogether. Make a rule saying a catcher is not allowed to stand up during a pitch. Teams would still be able to pitch around batters if they really want to, but that would make it much more difficult, and it would result in a lot more balls put in play.
Hat Tip – [ESPN]