The New Rules, Not Quite the Same as the Old Rules

MLB released changes to the baseball rulebook yesterday, V.2007.  Highlights after the jump.

  • Time between pitches: The allotment for delivering the ball with no one on base has been reduced, from 20 seconds to 12. The price for each violation is a ball.
  • Batter’s box presence: an automatic strike will be assessed each time a batter violates the rule requiring they keep one foot in the batter’s box throughout his at-bat, except for certain game-play conditions — during which he is still not allowed to leave the dirt area surrounding the plate.
  • The guidewords for deciding whether to credit a batter with a sacrifice bunt have changed from him being possibly retired on a "perfect play" to "ordinary effort" by the defense.
  • No reason for rosin: The same Rule 3.02 now specifically prohibits placing "soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sandpaper, emery paper or other foreign substance" on the ball. The rule’s penalty phase dictates, "The umpire shall demand the ball and remove the offender from the game. In addition, the offender shall be suspended automatically for 10 games."
  • Potentially most consequential is the manner in which games that end in a tie, due to weather or other uncontrollable elements, will be resolved. While previously such games were considered official and replayed in their entirety from the beginning, hence they will be "suspended" and resumed at the point of stoppage.

We’re especially excited about the prospects of the first two bullet points.  Game times are too long, and the idea that an umpire might enforce a pitch clock causes visions of 2-2.5 hour games to dance in our head.  We know that the main contributor to slow play is bad pitching and consquently incessant micromanaging of the man on the mound, but we like the sentiment that MLB is exhibiting.  Enforcement is the next hurdle: umps have got to do their part with both pitchers and batters.  I suppose Big Papi will have to make sure he glove-slaps with a foot in the box at all times.  Just as long as they don’t outlaw the gloveslap, we’re ok with the rule.  The additional leeway for official scorers with regards to sacrifices seems to be an answer to petulant stars who demand re-scorings over lost batting average.  And the final bullet point just seems like common sense.  We never liked the idea of a full re-start, despite some logical arguments that might be offered in support of beginning games freshly.  More changes can be found at the link above.

16 comments… add one
  • These are extraordinary changes, and to be applauded. I imagine there’s going to be some major controversy over enforcement early in the season. Called third strikes, and walks in crucial situations. Can you imagine a Sox-Yank game ending on an umpire’s penalty? There are a great many players, batters and pitchers, who are going to have to adjust their routines.
    That said, I’m fully with SF in applauding these changes. Congratulations go to Sandy Alderson and, yes, Bud Selig, for introducing them. We”re definitely looking at a tighter, faster, game for 2007. That’s exciting.

    YF February 17, 2007, 9:38 am
  • For pitchers, it only appears to change in situations when there is no one on base. The post does not mention base situations for batters.
    Anyone have any idea how much the rosin rule will tick pitchers off? I hadn’t even heard that this was an issue

    VicSF February 17, 2007, 10:07 am
  • These are all very good in theory, but let’s see if they are enforced. Time limits have always been in the books and they are rarely enforced, if ever. I once played in a time limit league that was enforced with a timer, the game is completely different. It’s one of those things that either gets enforced throughout the entire game or not at all and generally those type of rules do not work. As for having one foot in the box, that has been a rule on lower levels for a long time. It doesn’t speed up the game. You can still step out after every pitch, all you need to do is keep one foot in. The Nomar’s of the world will still find a way to prolong games and bend the rules. After all people pay a lot of money to see them play, not see umpires make calls. Don’t expect much to change.
    Sorry if that seems pesimistic.

    Triskaidekaphobia February 17, 2007, 10:17 am
  • Trisk: I hope the rules aren’t enforced viciously, or you’re going to have penalties changing games. But I do think these will be point of emphasis rules, and that umpires are going to be hustling the game along much more quickly than in the past; this is probably the aim here. So, yeah, there will always be slow-pokes, but I would hope/expect that we see a cumulative acceleration of things that will be reflected in a few minutes shave off games, on average.

    YF February 17, 2007, 10:27 am
  • Do these rule changes mean that Steve Trachsel should retire now?

    Nick-YF February 17, 2007, 10:30 am
  • Jose Contreras might be in a bit of trouble.

    SF February 17, 2007, 10:47 am
  • Even though the rule only applies to pitchers in no-men-on situations, the math is pretty simple. Assuming that pitchers for the most part have used the maximum 20 seconds, it goes like this:
    17 (minimum) leadoff at-bats. 3-4 pitches per at-bat, with enforcement, = 50-60 pitches x 8 seconds = 400-480 seconds of time shaved off games. So, at a minimum, with enforcement (a huge variable), games will be, simpistically, at least 6-8 minutes shorter. Now add in all the other at-bats with no guys on and you might be talking 10-12 minutes per game. This turns a 2:40 game into a 2:28 game. That would be fantastic.

    SF February 17, 2007, 11:00 am
  • My guess is that, looking back on avg game time at the end of the season, we’ll see somthing around, say 4 minutes in shaved time. that’s not insignificant. i think we may see a great many more 2:30 games.
    keep in mind that the sox and yanks are still going to be at the long end of the spectrum on this. they’re taking so many pitches, hitting for such high obp, scoring so many runs, and chewing up pitchers so early in games….not conducive to short games. And this style of play is becoming an MLB trend. So to a certain extent, the new rules are really just mitigating an expansion in game time.

    YF February 17, 2007, 12:23 pm
  • I could be overestimating the impact of these rules on the speed of games, but anything that moves contests in this direction is a good thing.

    SF February 17, 2007, 12:42 pm
  • If they could get 8-12 minutes off, that would be incredible. Your calculations make basic sense, but then I figureyou’re going to have enforcement issues, and other variances. 5 minutes is no mean feat, though. do that for a couple of years in a row, and all of a sudden you’ve got a major change.

    YF February 17, 2007, 12:57 pm
  • I’m with Trisk. I’ll believe it when I see it. Until now, the two biggest rule changes that I remember occurred around 1995/96, when they redefined the strikezone to include the letters and the bottom part of the knee, and Alderson said he was going to make sure umpires enforced this “real” strike zone. Likewise, they instituted (I presume) the 20 second time limit (or at least some time limit). Both these changes were touted as ways to shorten games. Game times have in fact remained static since 1990, neither lengthening nor shortening more than a minute or so in either direction. Those rule changes apparently were either not well enforced or not effective, or else there would have been little need to change them again
    In fact, according to this article I found while doing some quick and dirty research, the average time of an AL game has lengthened only nine minutes since 1960, from 2:38 to 2:47 in 2004. I think it’s unlikely that any rule change — when it’s not even cutting in half the time allowed between pitches — will somehow cut in half a decades-in-the-making increase.

    Paul SF February 17, 2007, 1:46 pm
  • Interesting, Paul, and also a bit disappointing. As I mentioned in the original post, the enforcement is the big variable and the biggest stumbling block. Without it, this is all window dressing.

    SF February 17, 2007, 1:49 pm
  • As long as umpires issue warnings before they start penalizing, the issue of these penalties affecting the outcomes of games should be lessened.
    I might like a provision where enforcement is loosened in close (save?) situations, to prevent a wayward foot from costing someone the game.
    Anyway, it’s a long season, so some fine-tuning is expected. IE, the microfiber basketball.

    Kazz February 17, 2007, 4:01 pm
  • I agree that anything that can help speed up plate appearances is valuable. I can go along with the fact that the allotment of time a pitcher has to deliver has been reduced (in theory). I’m curious as to what the existing collateral rule is regarding batter preparation to go along with the change regarding leaving the box.

    attackgerbil February 17, 2007, 4:07 pm
  • I am of the opinion that MLB should put in a land mine just outside the box. If the player steps out before the at-bat has been completed or the ball is put in play safely, then blammo. That would stop the stallers, right?
    They’d obviously have to work out some sort of deactivation system on foul balls and for wild pitches, etc., but I still think you solve the problem through pre-emptive violence.

    GWB February 17, 2007, 6:43 pm
  • Very funny, GWB… Give my regards to Dick and Condi, and be sure to consume as many pretzels as possible.

    Hudson February 17, 2007, 7:01 pm

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