Monday, February 19, 2018

2018 Pace of Play Changes Limit Mound Visits, No Clock

After months of discussion, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced several pace of play rule changes for the 2018 season that will limit teams' mound visits to six per game and set strict time limits for inning breaks and pitching changes. Teams will also gain new technology for internal Replay Review, while no pitch clock will be added this year.

Manfred's decision to forgo the pitch clock after bluffing for months that he could implement it in 2018 is to allow teams the opportunity to speed up the game without using a clock. Pursuant to the MLBPA's CBA, MLB retains the authority to unilaterally introduce a pitch clock ahead of the 2019 season, and the sides will meet during the season to discuss pace of play.
Related PostPlayers Reject Pace of Play Proposal, Override Probable (1/19/18).

Mound Visits Limited to Six Per Game
Baseball will limit mound visits without a pitching change to six per regulation game. If a game extends into extra innings, one additional mound visit will be afforded per team per inning. Unused mound visits from the first nine innings will carry over.

According to this rule, mound visits that count against this limit shall include the following:
> Any manager or coach who visits the mound to confer with a pitcher;
> Any position player who leaves his position to meet with his pitcher during an at-bat;
> Any pitcher who leaves the mound to confer with a teammate during an at-bat.

The following actions will not constitute a mound visit that counts against the six-per-game limit:
> Any mound visit that ultimately results in a pitching change;
> Discussions between pitchers and teammates that occur between batters and do not disrupt play;
> Fielders who visit the mound to clean their spikes in rainy or muddy conditions;
> Fielders or coaches who visit the mound to attend to a potentially injured pitcher;
> A visit that occurs after announcement of an offensive substitution (pinch hitter or pinch runner).

Exception to the Limit (Gil's Call: The Mound Visit Loophole):
> If a pitcher and catcher are "crossed-up" but a team has used its allotment of six visits, the catcher may request from the plate umpire an exception that would allow for a brief, seventh, mound visit.

Inning Break and Pitching Change Clocks
Though MLB's break clock existed during prior years, its enforcement will change somewhat in 2018. Locally televised games' breaks will span 2 minutes and five seconds (2:05), while nationally televised contests will feature 2:25 breaks. Postseason games' breaks will last 2:55. The timer begins at the last out of an inning unless the third out is a close play that may be subject to Replay Review, in which case the clock starts when it is clear a team will not challenge the call, or the out is affirmed via Review. If the pitcher ends an inning on base, at the plate, or on deck, the timer begins when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound.

SIDEBAR: This means local games will have at least 35 minutes of commercials, nationally televised games' breaks will total at least 41 minutes, and postseason games will feature at least 49 minutes (assuming the home team wins and there are no mid-inning pitching changes).

At 25 seconds on the countdown clock, the pitcher will throw his last warmup pitch.
At 20 seconds, the batter is announced and begins to approach home plate.
At 0 seconds, the pitcher will begin his windup or other motion to deliver a pitch to the batter.

The pitcher is not guaranteed nor limited to eight warm-up pitches; he has until :25 to warm up. Umpires may set aside the time limits under circumstances such as injury/safety considerations, equipment malfunctions, or playing field delays.

Video Replay Review for Teams
To crack down on sign stealing, MLB will install phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor those conversations to ensure legality. Video rooms will also have the capability to see direct slow motion camera angles.

Batter's Box
OBR 5.04(b)(4)(A)'s batter box rule requiring the batter to keep at least one foot in the box throughout the at-bat except during certain events (swing, bunt, check swing, inside pitch that brushes back the batter, "Time" called, pickoff/play on the bases, pitcher leaves mound, catcher leaves box, wild pitch, passed ball) remains in effect.
Related PostRob Manfred Vows Pace of Play Rules Changes for 2018 (11/16/17).


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