Three Major League Baseball games are set for Opening Day on April 2, so it is an interesting time for the league to implement new rules and changes that will undoubtedly take some adjusting to for all of the players and coaches.
The first change that the MLB is making has to do with the way in which intentional walks are given out. Traditionally, the pitcher and catcher agree to simply pitch around the power hitter during a tight game with runners in scoring position. Instead of throwing four balls, the league has changed it to an automatic walk in which the batter is awarded the base with a simple signal from the head coach.
The league implemented the change in order to cut down on the overall time of games, however, the Wall Street Journal calculated that only 14 seconds would be shaved off of each game, as there was one walk every 2.6 games last season.
While some fans are angered that the traditional ways of baseball are being tampered with, Indians manager Terry Francona and Yankees manager Joe Girardi both expressed to ESPN that they were impartial and did not mind the change of strategy because while it may not speed up the game that much, it is seen as an antiquated practice.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said junior Austin Unglaub. “Many people don’t enjoy watching baseball because they think it’s too slow moving and that it takes too long. This move will definitely help to cut down on dead time, even if just a little bit.”
There are also talks of the league raising the strike zone from the top of the kneecaps. Commissioner Rob Manfred has told ESPN that it would increase action by putting more balls in play and increasing the amount of runners on base. However, many have argued that if pitchers were unable to hit the smaller strike zone, it would actually increase the number of walks and decrease the amount of hits.
“Hitters will have to make an adjustment in choosing when they swing and when they hold back if the strike zone is moved, but pitchers will be pressured to actually hit the spots,” said pitcher Nick Recarte.
The MLB is also testing out a new rule in the minors, which has been used in softball for years. Basically a runner would be placed on second base to start the inning if a game were to go into extras, again to speed up the pace of the game.
“It’s an interesting idea. It will make extra innings more exciting and really make defense and pitchers crack down as they’re at a disadvantage to begin with,” said junior Connor Walsh. “I think it would definitely make the game move faster, especially when games in extras can drag on for what feels like forever.”
With a little over a week left until baseball season is officially underway, it will be interesting to see how the MLB teams react to these new changes implemented by the league.