Speeding Up the Sport. Should Baseball Have to Pick Up the Pace?

This season, Major League Baseball and their newly established “pace of game committee” are using the Arizona Fall League (AFL) to implement new rules (or enforce rules that have otherwise been ignored in the past) that are designed to speed up the game.  The AFL is being used as a “try-out” to see if these rules would be the correct thing to put into place throughout baseball and the MLB.  As baseball has grown throughout the years, so has the average time of a game.  This year, the average game time was 3 hours and 2 minutes compared to just 2 hours and 33 minutes in 1981.  The ultimate goal is to quicken the pace and have games that end under 3 hours again.

These pace of game rules include:

Three “Timeout” limit.  Managers, coaches, and catchers are only allowed three visits to the mound during the game (excluding pitching changes or injuries.)

No-pitch intentional walks. Managers signal to the umpire for an intentional walk, and the batter takes 1st base without a pitch being thrown.

Batter Box Rule. The hitter must have one foot inside the batter’s box throughout the entire at bat unless there is a foul ball, wild pitch, pass ball, or a pitch that forces the batter outside the box, or if the hitter is granted time by the umpire.

2:30 pitching change. The max time for a pitching change is two and a half minutes.

2:05 inning break. The max time between innings is two minutes and 5 seconds.  The batter must be in the box at 1:45 or the umpire can call a strike. Also, the umpire can call a ball if the pitcher throws after the 2:05 mark.

20 second rule. (used at Salt River Field only.)  There is a 20 second clock posted in the dugouts as well as behind homeplate and in the outfield to prevent the pitchers from taking too much time. This is being used as a modified version of rule 8.04 that requires a pitcher to deliver a pitch within 12 seconds after receiving the ball with the bases unoccupied.

The rules that are being put into place in the AFL are nothing new.  Most of these rules have been used or discussed for future use in some capacity in the independent Atlantic League.

Along with the batter’s box rule, 12 second pitch rule, the no-pitch intentional walk, and the three timeouts, the Atlantic league also has rules to:

Enforce the rule book strike zone. Umpires must be consistent and use the strike zone listed in Rule 2.00 which states that the strike zone stretches from the hollow beneath the kneecap to the midpoint between the shoulder and batter’s waist.

Reduce the number of warm up pitches from 8 to 6.

Pinch Runners for catchers.  Pinch runners must replace catchers as soon as they reach base to ensure that catchers are suited up in time for the next half inning.

Extra innings are also being shortened around the independent leagues.  The American Association is looking to implement an extra inning rule that has already been in place by the Can-Am league.  After 10 innings, the batter before the leadoff hitter will be placed on second base.  The inning would then precede as normal. (If the runner scores, the runner will be given a R and the hitter batting him in would get an RBI, but the run will not be charged against the pitcher’s ERA.)  A version of this rule is already used in the World Baseball Classic and with the International Baseball Federation.

All of these rules are being established to speed up the game and pace of play.  Do you think these are good ideas or do you think it will ruin the sport?

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Finding a Diamond(back) in the Rough – The Indy Ball Edition

During the Frontier League season, my friend Stewart Ijames of the Washington Wild Things was just one of six players in the league who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. After the season, two more Washington Wild Things and four additional Frontier League players also had their contracts purchased by the Diamondbacks. In a span of five months, the Arizona Diamondbacks took a total of 12 players from the Frontier League, which is by far the most for any major league organization; The next closest was 5 taken by the Braves.

However, the Frontier League was not the only independent league the Arizona Diamondbacks were scouting. From May through the end of September, they also signed four players from the American Association, five from the Canadian American Association (Can-Am), and two from the Atlantic League. If you’ve lost count, that is 23 players that the Arizona Diamondbacks signed from the top 4 leagues in the indy ball ranks since the beginning of the season. The Braves came in at a distant 2nd after signing a total of 13 independent league players from those leagues during the same time frame.

Of those 23 players signed, 15 of those players were given contracts during the MiLB season and assigned to an affiliated team. The other eight players were signed to contracts after the season had ended. Currently, 13 of the 15 players are still listed as “active” within the organization. Two of these players played at the AAA level, four at the AA level, and six players spent time with the Championship winning class A team, the Hillsboro Hops. Signing players from the independent leagues is usually done to fill holes within the lower levels of an organization while trying to find a diamond in the rough who may advance all the way to the major leagues. It can offer a huge reward for very little risk.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’™ coordinator of independent league scouting, Chris Carminucci, knows a thing or two about finding a diamond(back) in the rough. This year alone, three of his independent league players (Andy Marte, Bo Schultz, and David Peralta) spent time on the Arizona Diamondbacks major league roster. One player, Peralta, was a breakout star. After signing halfway through 2013 and spending the rest of the season with the class A Visalia team, he broke this year’s spring training camp with AA Mobile. On June 1st, he made his major league debut and began getting acclimated with the higher level of play. He became the Diamondbacks every day right fielder and finished the season with 8 HRs, .286 avg, .450 SLG, and a .770 OPS in 88 major league games.

David Peralta’s story is unlikely, but it is nowhere near the only one of its kind. The Diamondbacks have found some great talent courtesy of Chris Carminucci. He has managed to tap into a market that few major league organizations have done, and he has managed to do it with great success. Is there another Peralta within the 21 independent players who were signed in 2014 and are still active with the Diamondbacks? Only time will tell, but it should be an interesting story to follow.

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Writing and sharing stories about Independent Baseball.