Craig Calcaterra

Stepping out

The new pace of play rules aren’t disruptive, make a lot of sense and may actually work

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The new rules about batters staying in the box and pitchers being ready to pitch immediately after the commercial break ends have just been announced. You can read all about them here. Here are my initial thoughts:

Outside of increased pitching changes — which really can’t practically be eliminated — I suspect that batters stepping out of the box after every pitch is the biggest driver of slow games. We talk about slow pitchers more often, but they can’t get set and look in for a sign until the batter is ready. Forcing the batter to stay in the box will force him to get ready more quickly which will speed the pitchers up too, I suspect.

I do, however, think there are too many exceptions to the stay-in-the-box rule. As it is, batters are only required to stay in the box only on called balls and called strikes, and I feel like there is no reason why batters should be allowed to step out when they swing and miss or foul one off. Let the umpire decide if the swing was so damn violent that the batter needs some recombobulation time, but otherwise get on with it, ya know?

All of that said, I think starting conservatively is always a good idea when it comes to rules changes. And I do think that even having a limited number of situations in which a batter must stay in the box will encourage a lot more staying-in-the-box than we expect. That’s because I don’t think most batters view stepping out of the box as some strategic choice. Sure, sometimes they’re trying to mess with a pitcher’s rhythm, but not too often, and it’s obvious when they’re doing it. I think it’s mostly just a habit/rhythm thing they do. If we start to change their habits on called balls and strikes, I bet batters just start staying in the box more anyway because that’s the new rhythm. We’ll see.

As for the rules about pitchers warming up more quickly, the addition of a clock for those purposes and the requirement that everyone be ready togo after the commercial break is over: that’ll be more initially disruptive, I bet. But given that it’s about preparation and not actual game play, I suspect that they’ll adjust to it fairly quickly and it’ll just become a new normal.

In the short term, yes, some batters will complain about not being able to step out (I have David Ortiz in the pool) and some pitchers will claim about being rushed in their warmup routines. But all-in-all these are pretty minor changes to players’ routines that could, if my above suspicions prove accurate, speed up the game fairly significantly.

Major League Baseball, the MLBPA officially announce new pace-of-play rules

Adjusting gloves
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We heard last night that it was going to come down today, and today it comes down: Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have jointly announced additions to the sport’s pace of game program, which will be effective in Spring Training, the regular season and the Postseason. They have likewise announced a series of modifications to the instant replay system.

PACE OF PLACE RULE CHANGES

The pace of game program will require that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. This amendment/reemphasis of existing Rule 6.02(d) allows batters to leave the box if the following events occur:

  • The batter swings at a pitch;
  • The batter is forced out of the batter’s box by a pitch;
  • A member of either team requests and is granted “Time”;
  • A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
  • The batter feints a bunt;
  • A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;
  • The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or
  • The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.

Which, yes, are a lot of situations. Essentially, called balls and called strikes are the only occurences after which the batter must stay in the box.

In addition to the batters box rule, there will now be a stricter timing of between-innings breaks and pitching change breaks during the game. Specifically, timers will be added that will measure the time during these breaks. One timer will be installed on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the façade behind home plate near the press box.  Immediately following the third out of each half-inning, the timer will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and from 2:45 for nationally televised games.  An MLB representative attending each game will operate the timers from the ballpark and will track the following events:

 

Time Remaining Activity
40 Seconds PA announces batter and begins to play walk-up music
30 Seconds Pitcher throws final warm-up pitch
25 Seconds Batter’s walk-up music ends
20 Seconds-5 Seconds Batter enters the batter’s box
20 Seconds-0 Seconds Pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch

Pitchers can still throw the usual number of warmup pitches if they get it done before the 30-second warning comes, but they will be deemed to have forfeited any pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30-second deadline.

The new rules — both for batters and pitchers — will be enforced through a warning and fine system, with discipline resulting for flagrant violators.  No fines will be issued in Spring Training or in April of the 2015 regular season. This enforcement mechanism was decided on after players objected to ball-and-strike penalties or other sanctions that could affect the outcome of the game.

INSTANT REPLAY RULE CHANGES

In addition to the pace of play rules, there are some changes to the replay system as well. Managers may now invoke instant replay from the dugout and will no longer be required to approach the calling umpire to challenge a call.  Managers may hold play from the top step of the dugout by signaling to players and the home plate umpire that he is considering a challenge.  A decision can be communicated verbally or with a hand signal.  To challenge an inning-ending call, managers will be required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field.

Other alterations:

  • Whether a runner left the base early or properly touched a base on a tag-up play will be reviewable.
  • A manager will retain his challenge after every call that is overturned.  Last year, a manager retained his challenge only after the first overturned call.
  • A manager must use a challenge in order to review whether a play at home plate included a violation of the rule governing home plate collisions.  However, in the event that a manager is out of challenges after the start of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may still choose to review whether there was a violation of the rule.
  • During Postseason games, regular season tiebreaker games and the All-Star Game, managers will now have two challenges per game.
  • Instant replay will not be utilized during 2015 Spring Training, but it will be in place for exhibition games at Major League ballparks prior to the start of the 2015 regular season.

That’s a lot to unpack. But we have over a month and a half of spring training to unpack it all. What say you, readers?

 

Suzyn Waldman on A-Rod: “I find him impossible to dislike”

alex rodriguez head
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Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman spoke to Bob Raissman of the Daily News about Alex Rodriguez. Your mileage may vary on her baseball analysis, but she nails the A-Rod analysis pretty spot-on:

“I find him impossible to dislike,” Waldman, the Yankees radio analyst, told me during a telephone conversation. “I’m not defending him. I think what he did was stupid more than anything else. I know he’s lied. He’s made every wrong decision. He says things and does things and you just want to say ‘Why?’ I also know you can’t go wrong for dumping on Alex. This is what its become. What’s he supposed to do?”

What’s he supposed to do? Don’t you read the papers, Suzyn? Exile to the Yukon is his only option. — Wait, what’s that? Oh, sorry. I’ve just been told that he can’t do that either, as he’d be all alone there, “making it all about him.”  So no, I have no idea what he should do either.

Jayson Werth on jail: “It’s not something that was fun. It’s not a destination you would choose.”

Jayson Werth
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Jayson Werth recently served some time in the pokey for reckless driving (they’re serious about that in Northern Virginia). He spoke with Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post about his experience:

“It’s a time in my life that I’m glad it’s behind me . . . I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t recommend the experience I had to anyone, really. It’s not something that was fun. It’s not a destination you would choose.”

It is a destination, however, which has caused Werth to want to focus more on being a good citizen. He tells Kilgore, “I don’t want to be looked at as some renegade in the community . . . I live here.” And he has made good on that, substantially ramping up his charitable work both before and after he served his five days in jail. And no, there was no ulterior motive there. It was after he was sentenced. He seems to really want to do some good.

That’s admirable, as is his vow to be more respectful of the laws. But, at the same time, one wonders if he actually understands how dangerous it is to drive 105 m.p.h. on an urban freeway:

“On some level, in our society, people want you to be sorry — say sorry and apologize — that sort of thing,” Werth said. “I would think that I’m sorry if I let anybody down. But I don’t feel like I put anybody in danger.”

The baseball media just spent two days picking apart Alex Rodriguez’s apology. Any of those folks want to take a crack at this one? Anyone?

Oh well. Good for Werth for doing his time and trying to turn it into a good. And good for Kilgore for getting what is truly an interesting story out of it. A good read. Go check it out.

I may need a disguise when I visit Giants camp this spring training

Bruce Bochy
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source: Getty Images
Bruce Bochy

I’m going to Arizona for spring training the second week of March. I think I may need a bodyguard if I go to Giants camp in Scottsdale, though. All of these tweets are from last night:

For the record, here is the handsome manager list again. I feel like, after all of this, Bochy should move up the list next year based on his sense of humor alone. A good sense of humor is extremely attractive.

Get well soon, Boch. Not that you need to be at 100% strength to pound my scrawny butt into goo if you choose too and like I deserve, but still.