So, Johan Santana’s no-hitter was still worth it, right?

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Never really a workhorse, Johan Santana threw 134 pitches in his no-hitter on June 1, topping his previous career high by nine. Coming back from shoulder surgery, he hadn’t thrown more than 108 pitches in a start this season, as the Mets were being extra cautious with him until the night he had a chance to accomplish something no other pitcher in franchise history had done.

We all know what happened next. Santana has made 10 starts since the no-hitter and gone 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA. On Wednesday, the Mets made the decision to place him on the DL with back inflammation, ending his season. The league  hit .327/.377/.587 with 13 homers off him in 49 innings during the worst stretch of his career.

The Mets were 29-23 at the conclusion of the no-hitter, putting them just one game back of the Nationals in the NL East. They’re 28-43 since. At 57-66, they’re 20 games back of the Nationals and 10 games out of the second wild card spot.

So, it was worth it, I’d say. Let’s face it: even if Santana were 7-3 instead of 3-7 since the no-hitter, the Mets wouldn’t be in the race. That’s not to say his struggles are completely isolated from the team as a whole’s; he’s definitely added extra strain to the bullpen with his short outings and he did miss a couple of starts while on the disabled list. But the Mets still weren’t going to be in the think of the playoff hunt with a good Johan.

No, we don’t even know for sure that Santana’s problems began with the no-hitter, but it would be a pretty big coincidence. Fortunately for the Mets, he hasn’t complained of arm woes. His first DL stint was due to an ankle injury, and now it’s the back being used as an excuse. Certainly, arm fatigue has been a factor, but with the Mets shutting him down, there’s no chance of anything else going wrong.

Six months ago, the Mets really had no idea what they’d get from Santana this year. I’d imagine they have to be pleased with the results, even though he’s now finished up at 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA. Not only did they get one lasting memory, but he had enough success early on that they can be pretty confident about an improved showing in 2013.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.