Hoornstra: MLB’s new pace-of-play rules are a warning to players – speed up

first_img“It’s up to (the league), what they want to do,” he said with a tone of resignation. “It’s going to drive me crazy because I don’t think what they did is going to make the game faster.”As evidence, Jansen held up the exceptions to the new rules. Pitchers are still allowed to step off the rubber between pitches. A catcher, or any position player, can talk to a pitcher between at-bats without counting toward the official limit, as long as he doesn’t visit the mound. There’s even a clause that allows a position player to visit the mound “to clean spikes in rainy conditions.”Though they might prove ineffective, the new restrictions were preferable to a pitch clock, Jansen said.“Sometimes you’ve got to step off and slow the game down,” he said. “That’s when a pitcher becomes great – when they step off sometimes, when stuff is going too fast. Slow yourself down, get back in it and throw your next pitch.”The rules decision elicited a sigh of relief from Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes.Barnes was playing in Triple-A when the Pacific Coast League instituted a more radical pace-of-play measure. Any pitcher who didn’t come set within 20 seconds after his last pitch could be charged with a ball. Batters could be charged with a strike if they took too long walking into the batter’s box.“I saw guys get punched out because of the pitch clock,” Barnes said. “I don’t know how they would ever do that in a major league game.”Added Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood: “that can have a massive effect on the outcome of a game, all for what? Six or seven more seconds? That can’t happen.”To that end, the new pace-of-play rules might have communicated an implicit warning to players: Speed up now or a pitch clock is coming later.In the meantime, the new rules could expose a loophole for teams trying to steal signs. MLB announced it would install phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.But mound visits were key to combating sign-stealing, the players said. Jansen throws only two pitches, a cut fastball and an occasional slider. He believes he can switch signs without visiting his catcher in the middle of an at-bat. Another pitcher might not be so lucky. This is when the new rule might become a factor – late in games, when a team’s six visits are up and a new set of signs are deemed necessary.Related Articles Last week, Manfred was expected to announce a new purpose for those countdown timers: a pitch clock, with strict penalties for any pitcher or batter unprepared when the clock reaches zero. The idea was considered, but the league and the players never reached consensus on the specifics.Instead of unilaterally imposing a landmark rule without the players’ consent, the commissioner struck a compromise. Teams will now be limited to visiting the pitcher’s mound six times in a nine-inning game, then once for each extra inning.“Part of my thinking in moving forward more slowly, not going ahead and implementing some of the changes we had the right to implement,” Manfred said, “was that publicly and privately players admitted pace of game was an issue – an issue we needed to improve on.”With an average game lasting 3 hours and 11 minutes, the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies were the slowest teams in the National League last year. Dodger pitchers have been the slowest of any staff – 25.0 seconds between pitches, according to the MLB Network – since the start of the 2016 season.All-Star closer Kenley Jansen averaged a fastidious 29 seconds between pitches last year. He is among the slowest pitchers in the game. He is also proof that the players’ desire to quicken the pace of play isn’t unanimous. If longer games are really deterring fans, Jansen asked, then why did the Dodgers lead MLB in attendance last season? Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Dodgers asking Kenta Maeda to take bullpen mentality into rotation spot The Dodgers’ pitchers already begin each game with multiple sets of signs, Manager Dave Roberts said. Mound visits are used not just to change signs, but for catchers and pitchers to remind each other which set of signs is in play. Another exception to the six-visit-per-game rule is if the pitcher and catcher are “crossed up,” but an umpire can reject a catcher’s request or even eject him from the game for arguing over a seventh mound visit.“Hopefully that doesn’t take away from the quality of the game,” Barnes said.Roberts said last week that he was clear on the scope of the new rules. Then on Friday, during the Dodgers’ Cactus League opener against the White Sox, the manager was caught by surprise. The Dodgers lost a mound visit when first baseman Cody Bellinger walked to the mound with a pitcher after a play on the infield. Afterward, Roberts said he would meet with MLB executive Joe Torre to “get some clarity.”In the quest to quicken baseball, is targeting mound visits worth the effort? The answer will come soon enough. The clock is ticking.Staff writer Bill Plunkett contributed to this story.center_img J.T. Chargois: Being with Dodgers ‘like Disney World’ Dodgers rally in ninth inning to tie Rangers, 4-4 GLENDALE, Ariz. — On the eve of the 2016 All-Star Game, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred was tasked with a housekeeping question.“Pace of play for me,” he said, “is like dandelions in your front lawn. I just can’t get rid of it.”Baseball managed to trim seven minutes off the average game time from 2014 to 2015, to an even three hours. The league mandated countdown timers in every ballpark, and umpires enforced a series of strict between-innings deadlines. Batters were required to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box after taking a pitch.But in 2016, those rules were scarcely enforced. The league and the players’ union had other priorities – namely, renewing an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement. The average time of game rose to 3 hours, 4 minutes by the end of the season, and 3 hours, 8 minutes in 2017.last_img

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