Major League Baseball announced new pace of play rules for the 2018 season. There were minor changes made in an effort to speed up games this season, but the most notable change is a new limit on mound visits. Teams now will have 6 visits per game, with visits being defined as:
2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.
I’m part of the minority who doesn’t believe MLB needs to shorten the time it takes to play games, I think it needs to find ways to reduce the dead time that’s seemingly driving away younger fans year after year. In that sense, limiting the number of mound visits a team has is a good start especially when position player visits count against that total.
My one concern with this rule change is enforcement. How will umpires enforce the rule if a first basemen walks over the pitchers mound casually after a routine out? How will they handle all the ambiguity that comes with a rule like this? What happens when a team tries to visit the mound for the 7th time? As of now, it’s not a good start:
Been told that there is no penalty for 7th visit to mound, that umps will just disallow it, which I see causing problems both hysterical and confrontational.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 19, 2018
MLB needs a practical way to enforce this new rule and as of now I don’t see an easy solution for this rule, but I think a solution exists to speed up game action.
The players don’t want to impose clocks telling them when they have to throw the ball and I totally agree with that, so instead of implementing a bunch of time limits to a game designed to not have time limits, we need to limit the number of substitutions a manager is allowed. Injuries are obviously a different story, but limiting teams to 4 substitutions per game will go a long way in keeping managers on the bench.
Limiting substitutions has multiple benefits to increasing the amount of game action fans will get to see. The first is it prevents managers from repeatedly waltzing out to the mound, having a discussion with his infield to milk an extra warm up pitch for his reliever and then make a signal for a pitching change. Limiting that sequence alone saves time while also keeping the game moving and creating action. The second benefit is it brings more strategy into the game. Managers have to manage ahead in the game to ensure they have substitutions they can use late in the game. It also could force starters to pitch longer which lets them get fatigued, which creates more opportunity for hit-able pitches which gives fans more action to watch.
Tip of the cap to Rob Manfred and MLB for trying to get younger fans interested in baseball. They just need to go a little further to really put more action on the field every night.