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The Atlantic League is adding new rules to speed up ballgames

Jul 25, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

Alarm Clock

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Atlantic League will enforce new rules, starting on August 1, meant to speed up the pace of baseball games. The article is for Insiders, but thankfully Deadspin jotted down a synopsis of some of the new rules, so head over there to check them out.

The one change that particularly intrigued me is the “automatic” intentional walk. Rather than throwing four balls out of the strike zone, the batter will simply be awarded first base. That change would remove the chance of moments such as this…

…but they happen so infrequently that the quickened pace is worth it.

Could those changes be applied to Major League Baseball? Possibly. However, it seems that two of the bigger culprits responsible for the slower pace of gameplay in the majors are commercial breaks and frequent pitching changes. The former won’t be changed because losing out on free money is never fun. As for the latter, limiting pitching changes would remove some of the strategy that makes baseball so interesting, but it might help keep more people interested as the game reaches the later stages. Call it “The Tony La Russa rule”.

  1. raysfan1 - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    Please just start enforcing rules 8.04 and 6.02. That would speed up games plenty.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      You beat me to it. If pitchers stop wasting time and batters stop stepping out so much, for so long, that would probably be 15 minutes a game.

      6.02? I’m reminded of a 1970s Cards game when Madlock wouldn’t get back in the box quickly enough and the ump told the pitcher, who just happened to be Hrabosky, to pitch. Madlock and the on-deck batter both rushed back to the box and eventually (this was when Bill was with the Cubs) a fight broke out.

      Indeed, “our own” Craig wrote about it a few months ago: http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/04/17/cardinals-and-cubs-throw-down-in-1974-they-dont-make-brawls-like-this-anymore/

      • 78mu - Jul 26, 2014 at 7:14 PM

        Of course Hrabosky was great at wasting time all by himself. He loved going behind the mound and psyching himself up.

        And I remember when he faced George Foster once. Foster would step out of the box and take his time getting back in. Just as he was set Hrabosky would go behind the mound. When Hrabosky got psyched and back on the rubber Foster stepped out again. This went on for about 4 or 5 minutes as they alternated wasting time before a pitch was thrown.

  2. infieldhit - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    Commercials are annoying, but they don’t ruin the flow the way wandering hitters and pitchers do. That simply needs fixing more than anything. I wonder if hypnosis would work?

    Intentional walks don’t happen that often so I don’t see a problem there.

  3. simon94022 - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    Limiting pitching changes would be great. At least make every pitcher face 3 batters.

    The obsession with individual pitcher-hitter matchups and late inning platoon splits belongs to certain hard core fans. But it turns off the casual fan and slows down the game to a ridiculous degree.

    • quintjs - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:00 AM

      That could make strategy a more interesting topic of conversation – do you bring in the LF pitcher to face somelike like Ortiz knowing they have to pitch to Napoli and Gomes or do you go with the RH and trust they can get Ortiz out. It forces some tough decisions, rather than just picking and choosing a pitcher per AB.

      It also would deal with one thing that does bother me, which is the dragging on of a game that has kinda already been decided, score is 7-3 in the eighth, but we still have 3 pitching changes. I wonder how much these are rating killers.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 26, 2014 at 5:28 PM

      Simon, I’m pretty sure pitching match-ups are done with an eye toward winning the game, not entertaining fans. I’d love to see the stats on how often they actually work as desired.

  4. peopletrains - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Intentional walks are infrequent. The impact will be negligible.

  5. tn16 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    How bout if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, sure it drags on but u don’t have to break the game.

    • twinfan24 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:46 AM

      To use your vernacular, it is broke.

      The problem isn’t the pitching changes. It is the batter having to undo and redo his batting gloves after every pitch, even when he didn’t swing. It is the pitcher having to wander around the mound. Any of the pitchers that work quickly seem to do very well, so why do so many waste so much time?

      • blacksables - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:43 AM

        The game isn’t broken. They way the managers and players get through it is. Fix what they are doing and leave the game alone.

  6. Senor Cardgage - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:45 AM

    Automatic intentional walks? What a moronic idea. Fully two-thirds of all MLB games don’t even have any intentional walks, and of the ones that do, over 80% have exactly one. Less than one game in sixty sees more than two intentional free passes.

    And how much time does an IBB take? Forty seconds. A minute, tops. That’s not enough of a savings to warrant a rule change.

    In fact none of this nickel and dime stuff is going to make a difference. The only way to speed up the game in any meaningful way is to quicken the pace between pitches.

  7. hunterbishop2013 - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:24 AM

    Expanding the strike zone to conform with the rule book would be a welcome way to shorten games.

    • bender4700 - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      So batters swing more and we have record number of foul balls?

      The strike zone isn’t the problem. It’s the time between pitches.

    • paperlions - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      Expanding? Currently umpires call the rule book zone and then some. They call a much wider zone than the plate, and the “lefty strike” (an extra 3-4″ off the outside corner) is just about standard now.

      • hunterbishop2013 - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        They rarely call the letter-high strike a strike.

      • paperlions - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        That isn’t part of the strike zone anymore. The upper bound is ” the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants”….which is kind of a horrible description, but they lowered it from the armpits bat in 1988.

  8. hunterbishop2013 - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:33 AM

    Othewise, I don’t know why three hours at the ball park is a bad thing.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 26, 2014 at 5:30 PM

      I’d agree, but they used to call such an event a doubleheader.

  9. gibbyfan - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    I’m totally in agreement with those who want to keep the batter in the box and have the pitcher pitch –also the meetings on the mound should be limited to taking a pitcher out. It just amazes me that as part of a professional sporting event it seems most of the time is spent with both the batter and pircher just walking around, adjusting their clothing, fidgeting about………..Hall of famer Bob Gibson used to say the job of the batter was to bat..he could never understand the time consumming antics and he practiced what he preached. The games he pitched were enjoyable to watch.

  10. bender4700 - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    Make pitchers throw the pitch within a certain amount of time, limit visits to the mound, and don’t let batters wander out of the box.

  11. renaado - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?bicode=070000&biid=2014071681508

    This article’s from the KBO league, certainly have some nice ideas related to this topic.

  12. extremepanic - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    My thought is to have no warmup pitches for the pitchers who come in from the bullpen. They should already be warmed up. If there are going to be as many pitching changes as there are, that would shorten things a bit.

    Of course, if a pitcher is hurt on the field, the guy coming in should still get warmup tosses.

  13. areyesrn - Jul 26, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Marlins really traded Miggy? lol

  14. stratomaticfan - Jul 26, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    How about going back to the balloon chest protector and calling the strike zone from the letters to the knees? More strikes = more swings = more balls in play = faster games.

    #SIMPLE

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