Major League Baseball and the Players Association, with support from Major League Umpires, announced significant rule changes Friday.
MLB is an attempt to address the concerns over the pace of the game put in place several changes for the 2015 season. Umpires will enforce the batter’s box rule and the new big league rule will mirror the one that was put in place at the minor league level last year.
The pace of game program will enforce the batter’s box rule, requiring that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. The new rule at the Major League level mirrors 6.02(d), which was in place in Minor League Baseball in 2014. Failure to follow the rule could result in a pitcher being awarded a strike without throwing a pitch.
MLB also put in place timers that will measure non-game action and break time between innings and pitching changes during each Major League game. MLB has given time limits and a structure that must be followed.
The pace of game rules 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.
The Instant Replay rules that were put into effect last spring were modified. Managers must challenge the calls from the dugout and now have two challenges per game and can retain their challenges for each call that is overturned.
Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark and Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz, the Chairman of Major League Baseball’s Pace of Game and Instant Replay Committees, jointly announced additions to the sport’s pace of game program, which will be effective in Spring Training, the regular season and the Postseason, and a series of modifications to the instant replay system. The World Umpires Association also has given its assent to the new efforts, which will be reviewed by the parties following the conclusion of the 2015 World Series.
Pace of Game
The pace of game program will enforce the batter’s box rule, requiring that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. The new rule at the Major League level mirrors 6.02(d), which was in place in Minor League Baseball in 2014.
6.02(d), 2014 Official Baseball Rules
(then applicable in Minor League Baseball)
(1) The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout the batter’s time at bat, unless one of the following exceptions applies, in which case the batter may leave the batter’s box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate:
(ii) The batter is forced out of the batter’s box by a pitch;
(iii) A member of either team requests and is granted “Time”;
(iv) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base;
(v) The batter feints a bunt;
(vi) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs;
(vii) The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or
(viii) The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.
If the batter intentionally leaves the batter’s box and delays play, and none of the exceptions listed in Rule 6.02(d)(1)(i) through (viii) applies, the umpire shall award a strike without the pitcher having to deliver the pitch. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. The umpire shall award additional strikes, without the pitcher having to deliver the pitch, if the batter remains outside the batter’s box and further delays play.
Rule 6.02(d)(1) Comment: The umpire has the discretion to issue a warning to a batter in lieu of calling an automatic strike for the batter’s first violation of Rule 6.02(d)(1) in a game, so long as the batter’s violation is judged to be brief and inadvertent. The umpire shall give the batter a reasonable opportunity to take his proper position in the batter’s box after the umpire has called a strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(d)(1) and before the umpire calls a successive strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(d)(1).
(2) The batter may leave the batter’s box and the dirt area surrounding home plate when “Time” is called for the purpose of
(i) making a substitution; or
(ii) a conference by either team.
Rule 6.02(d) Comment: Umpires shall encourage the on-deck batter to take a position in the batter’s box quickly after the previous batter reaches base or is put out.
A second new component to the pace of game program is the addition of timers that will measure non-game action and break time between innings and pitching changes during each Major League game. One timer will be installed on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the facade 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:
|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 will be permitted to throw as many warm-up pitches as they wish prior to the point when 30 seconds remain on the clock; however, pitchers will be deemed to have forfeited any of their traditional eight warm-up pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30-second deadline. Exceptions to these rules will be made in a variety of circumstances, including if the pitcher or catcher ended the prior half-inning at bat or on base.
Batters will be encouraged to get into the batter’s box with 20 seconds remaining on the timer. This is the same time that the broadcasters return from commercial. The pitcher is expected to begin his motion to deliver the pitch as soon as the batter gets into the batter’s box and becomes alert to the pitcher. Batters who do not enter the box prior to five seconds remaining on the timer and pitchers who do not begin the motion to deliver the pitch prior to zero seconds remaining on the timer will be deemed to have violated the break timing rules.
These rules 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. Donations will be made to the Major League Baseball Players Trust charitable foundation based on the level of adherence to the new rules.
Instant Replay Modifications
- 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.
- 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.
Full Release from MLB.com includes statements from Commissioner Rob Manfred, Tony Clark, John Schuerholtz and Brian Lam, Major League Umpires representative. Lam said the umpires “applaud and support” the Commissioner’s Office and Players Association.