What has long been rumored is now true: Minor league games in the Gulf Coast, Arizona and Dominican Summer Leagues will all use international-style tiebreaker rules to eliminate lengthy extra-inning games. Once a game goes into extras, each successive inning will begin with a runner on second base.
That’s true in the 10th inning of regulation games, as well as the eighth inning of minor league doubleheaders, whose games are scheduled for just seven innings apiece. That differs from international-style tiebreaker rules, like those employed in the recent World Baseball Classic, which allow for one normal extra inning before placing runners on base. International rules also call for runners on first and second base, which almost certainly lead to the first batter bunting.
The new rules will not be used in the playoffs, but just in the regular season.
According to an official statement released by the league on Thursday morning, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have agreed to a slew of modifications that have been approved to begin at the start of the 2017 regular season. In doing so, both parties are hoping that the changes will increase the pace of play of the game going forward.
Below is the full list of implementations that will go into effect next month, as announced by the league on Thursday morning:
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.
A 30-second limit for a manager to decide whether to challenge a play and invoke replay review.
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.
A conditional two-minute guideline for Replay Officials to render a decision on a replay review, allowing various exceptions.
A prohibition on the use of any markers on the field that could create a tangible reference system for fielders.
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).
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.
As part of its initiative to improve pace-of-game play, Major League Baseball has approved a change to the intentional walk rule, going from the traditional four-pitch walk to a dugout signal, team and union sources told ESPN’s Howard Bryant.
MLB has studied various ways to quicken games.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported earlier this month that MLB had made formal proposals to the players’ union to usher in both raising the strike zone and scrapping the practice of lobbing four balls toward home plate to issue an intentional walk.
Getting rid of the old-fashioned intentional walk would eliminate about a minute of dead time per walk. In an age in which intentional walks actually have been declining—there were just 932 all last season (or one every 2.6 games)—that time savings would be minimal. But MLB saw the practice of lobbing four meaningless pitches as antiquated.
Major League Baseball plans on testing a rule change in the lowest levels of the minor leagues this season that automatically would place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings, a distinct break from the game’s orthodoxy that nonetheless has wide-ranging support at the highest levels of the league, sources familiar with the plan told Yahoo Sports.
A derivation of the rule has been used in international baseball for nearly a decade and will be implemented in the World Baseball Classic this spring. MLB’s desire to test it in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Arizona League this summer is part of an effort to understand its wide in-game consequences – and whether its implementation at higher levels, and even the major leagues, may be warranted.
“Let’s see what it looks like,” said Joe Torre, the longtime major league manager who’s now MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer and a strong proponent of the testing. “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.
Rule alterations [to help batters] might have the desired effect, yet the best plan ever offered for the bettering end of baseball, as the writer views it, was proposed 10 years ago, by Billy Fox, then second baseman for the Lincoln baseball club…
The Fox foul line, starting from the home plate, would pass first base a foot outside the sack. On a field in which the outfield fence is 360 feet distant from the plate, the Fox foul line would be four feet outside the old standard.
Billy Fox argued that in almost every ball game the batters hit line drives and sharp grounders or lay down bunts which go foul only by inches; he maintained that as much batting skill is required to hit one of these drives which goes foul by a slender margin as in lining the leather onto safe territory within the present lines.
What a terrible idea. If you move the foul lines, you’ll still have batted balls that just barely land in foul territory. It’s just that they’ll be different batted balls. That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. If you don’t want foul balls, play cricket.