Time is running out.
While this headline may indicate a commentary about the court, we’re actually going to explore the field. The game of baseball is undergoing historic changes this season. Changes that some say are unnecessary and others applaud. March will prove to be an exciting month as spring training gets into full swing.
For those who are just catching up, the pitch timer has entered the game. According to the MLB, this timer helped reduce game length by 25 minutes in the Minors in ’22. Limits on pickoff attempts led to an exciting 26% increase in stolen base efforts in the Minors. For those who have grown weary of the time-consuming rituals that batters and pitchers have adopted, this is all good news.
Here is a rundown of the new rules directly from MLB. To create a quicker pace of play, there is now a 30-second timer between batters. Between pitches, a 15-second timer is in place with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base.
- The pitcher must begin his motion to deliver the pitch before the expiration of the pitch timer. Pitchers who violate the timer are charged with an automatic ball. Batters who violate the timer are charged with an automatic strike.
- Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark or else be charged with an automatic strike.
- With runners on base, the timer resets if the pitcher attempts a pickoff or steps off the rubber.
- Pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.
- If a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.
- Mound visits, injury timeouts and offensive team timeouts do not count as a disengagement.
- If a team has used up all five of its allotted mound visits prior to the ninth inning, that team will receive an additional mound visit in the ninth inning. This effectively serves as an additional disengagement.
- Umpires may provide extra time if warranted by special circumstances. (So if, as an example, a catcher were to be thrown out on the bases to end the previous half-inning and needed additional time to put on his catching gear, the umpire could allow it.)
The bases have grown from 15 inches to 18, not that fans will likely know the difference, and the infielders have new rules as well. Four infielders must have both feet within the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber, and two infielders must be positioned on either side of second base when the pitch is released.
What does all of this have to do with a visit to Bozeman, MT? Two things. First, we have excellent local legion baseball. The Bozeman Bucks are highly competitive and Heroes Park offers the quintessential hometown ballpark experience complete with cold beer, extensive food options, and an incredible view. Secondly, one of our own is working his way toward the big leagues. Bennett Hostetler #20 made a name for himself as a star short stop in high school, went on to play collegiate ball at NDSU, and now impresses at a variety of positions on the Miami Marlins feeder team. Bennett has worked hard, and we are proud of his success.
If you haven’t watched a ballgame lately, tune in as these new rules go into play and you can decide for yourself if the changes are madness or if they will breathe new life into the oldest US professional sport (National League founded in 1876 and the American League founded in 1901).