Major League Baseball is set to institute a new rule in regards to intentional walks.Instead of the traditional situation where the catcher stands up and the Pitcher throws the ball about 4 feet outside, now an intentional walk will be signaled from the dugout.
This rule not something that I personally agree with and here are some reasons why:
Let’s look at some facts and get some estimates:
How much time is this really going to save? Let’s take a very conservative estimate and say that each Intentional Walk amounts to 1:35 of game time, and that it takes 5 seconds for the manager to signal an Intentional Walk in the new rule. Okay we now have our time-saved estimate, of a 1:30.
Now let’s assess that 1:30, is the game taking so long that we need to save such an insignificant amount of time? There were a total of 592 IBB in 2016 and 582 IBB in 2015, so we have a nice estimate of what 2017 should be.
The average baseball game is 2 hours and 55 minutes, or 175 minutes to keep things easy.
There are 2430 games played in the regular season every year.
That means there is a total of 425250 minutes of baseball every season.
This new rule will save roughly 885 minutes TOTAL over the course of the regular season.
This means that this rule will shorten the game by 0.21% an insignificant amount of time.
So really the Intentional Walk rule is going to have no bearing on the length of the game. Manfred has tried to address the fans concerns for this rule change but completely missed the crux of the issue.
“I think it’s a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change. Since 1980, home runs are up 32 percent. And strikeouts are up 67 percent. Last year, balls in play were at a record low, and we all know that things like the use of relief pitchers has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. I’m firmly convinced that our fans — both our avid fans and casual fans — want us to respond to and manage the change that’s going on in the game.”
The issue with the game is not that the fans are craving shorter game times, the issue is more that they want excitement. Yes homeruns are up, and yes strikeouts are up, but the homerun argument is a red herring. Even though homeruns are up the average runs per game is down significantly from the late 90s/early 2000s. If Manfred wants more people paying attention then institute policies that lead to more offense. Excitement, not the total time, is what is important to the fan.
Now you may ask me ‘Well, Rhino, why are you dedicating your time to write on this subject if its so inconsequential?” and here is your answer:
Changing this rule is not only removing a character trait of the game but also setting a precedent for future rule changes. There are many examples of mistakes by the pitcher during an intentional walk that actually causes EXCITEMENT and I’m sure the percentage is higher than the time saved by implementing this dumb rule.
In terms of precedent where does the time saving mechanism stop? Is MLB going to shorten the game to 7 innings, that would save time? Is MLB going to just have people walk to the dugout after hitting a homerun like they do in slow-pitch men’s softball? That would save time, even more time when Ortiz was playing. Pitch clocks are already instuted in the Minor Leagues but it actually has to be enforced in the Majors and I don’t like the idea that it would be an automatic ball for violating that rule.
Changes I want to see made but won’t happen:
22 man rosters- Now this won’t happen because the union will never allow it, but what would it look? First you have your 9 IF, 1DH, and your 5 starting pitchers, which only leaves 7 bench spots. You would want to carry a backup catcher so that leaves 6 spots for substitutions and relievers. What would this accomplish? Well teams wouldn’t be able to use so many relievers and substitutions, naturally. This would give an advantage to teams with better starting pitchers and teams that don’t use platoons. While this takes some of nuance away from the game it would make teams think more carefully on if they should carry another bat.
Only one mid-inning pitching change: This is a huge issue in baseball, especially in September when rosters expand, as teams have the opportunity to use 3,4,5, different pitchers in an inning. I have no issue with having someone start an inning and then someone else come in, but the massive amount of pitching changes mid-inning makes the game a lot longer and lot more frustrating.
Get rid of expansive rosters in September- this used to be helpful for teams trying to get a look at their younger plays but in today’s baseball it doesn’t make sense. First there is the Arizona fall league plus winter-ball for guys to stay fresh and continue to compete. Secondly it makes no sense to play 5/6 months with the ability to only play 25 guys and then expand it to 40 for 1/6 of the season. This also goes into the reliever situation, teams know they have a huge bullpen so they change pitchers every batter.
Challenge Rules: I’m not against all of the challenge rules but besides a home run I think everything should be played in real time. If we keep dissecting everything that an umpire does he isn’t going to get better, since every mistake he makes can be corrected. Also spending 10 minutes looking at every angle gets boring both for the fan in the stadium and the one at home.