Craig Calcaterra

Chase Utley

Major League Baseball announces a 30-second mound visit clock, new slide rules

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Major League Baseball just announced three new rule changes: (1) the advent of a 30-second clock which will time manager and coach visits to the mound; (2) the reduction of in-between innings breaks by 20 seconds; and (3) the announcement of new rules about sliding into second base designed to cut down on injuries to infielders. The slide rule has been expected for some time. The mound visit clock and commercial break reduction have not.

The mound visit clock will feature an in-stadium clock that will begin counting to 30 (or down from 30) from the moment a coach exits the dugout. There will be no penalty if it gets to 30 without the coach or manager leaving, but the umpires will break up the meeting. Which, um, they’ve always been allowed to do at their own discretion, but as we’ll see below with the sliding rule, taking the umpire’s discretion out of baseball seems to be a pretty big objective of Major League Baseball.

With respect to the between inning breaks, Major League Baseball says this:

Break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games.  The change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.

The sliding rule — the complete text of which is set forth below — will be a set of guidelines, governed by these four principles:

  • The runner is to slide prior to reaching the base;
  • The runner is to slide so that he is able to reach or touch the base or at least plausible attempt to do so;
  • The runner is to slide so that he is able to or at least attempt to stay on the base; and
  • The runner is not to change his pathway to the base.

All of these are logical, but as we’ve noted several times in the past, baseball’s Rule 6.05(m) already says that a base runner is out when he “intentionally interfere[s] with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play,” and the comment to that rule says it is is designed to “penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base.”  Given that that rule already exists, this is, again, about taking the umpire’s judgment out of the equation, it seems, than making any substantive change.

Expect a lot of talk about this throughout spring training and the early parts of the season.

Here is the sliding rule in-full:

Rule 6.01(j) – Sliding To Bases On Double Play Attempts

If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01.  A “bona fide slide” for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:

(1)       begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;

(2)       is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;

(3)       is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and

(4)       slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

A runner who engages in a “bona fide slide” shall not be called for interference under this Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide.  In addition, interference shall not be called where a runner’s contact with the fielder was caused by the fielder being positioned in (or moving into) the runner’s legal pathway to the base.

Notwithstanding the above, a slide shall not be a “bona fide slide” if a runner engages in a “roll block,” or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.

If the umpire determines that the runner violated this Rule 6.01(j), the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out.  Note, however, that if the runner has already been put out then the runner on whom the defense was attempting to make a play shall be declared out.

And the clock rule:

The pace of game program will expand this season to include timed 30-second visits to the pitcher’s mound by managers and pitching coaches.  In addition, break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games.  The change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.

 

 

Matt Cain scratched from a throwing session

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Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that “there is an issue with Matt Cain” and that he has been scratched from a morning throwing session. There were no details given, but this sort of thing rarely ends well.

Cain is owned $20 million each of the next two seasons and will be paid at least $7.5 million for a buyout of his 2018 season. He has suffered numerous injuries over the past two years, appearing in only 15 games in 2014 and 13 games last season. He has not been both healthy and effective since 2012.

If Cain has suffered an injury, it could cause the Giants to look at their old friend Tim Lincecum once again. We’ll keep you updated.

Red Sox owner: “We have perhaps overly relied on numbers”

Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry II fields questions from the media during baseball spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.  (Corey Perrine/Naples Daily News via AP)  FORT MYERS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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Red Sox owner John Henry spoke to the media yesterday about the team’s offseason moves and last year’s hiring of Dave Dombrowski. Henry says that those moves and other, less-visible shifts inside the Sox’ front office are something of a correction. That they are a function of his realization that, perhaps, the team’s thinking had gone too far in one particular direction:

“We have perhaps overly relied on numbers. Over the years, we have had great success relying upon numbers. That has never been the whole story, as we’ve said over and over again, but perhaps it was a little too much of the story, too much reliance on on past performance and trying to project future performance. That obviously hasn’t worked three out of the last four years.”

I’ve seen this getting some play as “the Red Sox think they went too far with sabermetrics!” but as the quotes in the article from John Farrell and even John Henry himself demonstrate, this is not some sort of repudiation of stats or analytics, however you define it. All clubs, even clubs who were early adopters of statistical analysis like the Red Sox were, take in all sorts of information and use it to make decisions. There are variations in balance and philosophy which make the question of “scouts vs. stats” an utterly obsolete and distinctly false choice. There is no referendum on sabermetrics going on in baseball like it still is to some degree among a certain subset of fans and members of the media.

It’s also the case that saying bad decisions in the past were based on “numbers” are counterfactual. This article attempts to say that the Pablo Sandoval signing was a “numbers” choice and, frankly, I find that ridiculous. There were a lot of pros and cons to giving Sandoval $95 million, but the people who are most concerned with projections and aging curves and hardcore statistical analysis were far less bullish on that move, I presume, than people who were impressed by small sample sizes in the postseason and raw star power.

None of which is to impugn either the numbers or the non-numbers people. It’s simply to say that there are always competing voices and philosophies, even within organizations. Sometimes one side of the conference table is listened to more closely than the other. Henry is merely suggesting, I think, that his attention has been turned to one side a bit more and way from another than in the past. It’s interesting, but not necessarily shocking or meaningful in ways some are likely to portray it.