Yesterday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that MLB’s Competition Committee was considering trimming two seconds off the pitch clock when runners are on base. That isn’t the only potential rule change under discussion this offseason.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reports a number of additional, fairly minor, alterations that’ll be considered. Perhaps most notable would be a requirement that pitchers work from the stretch whenever a runner is on base. Pitchers tend to work from the stretch to hold runners on but sometimes throw from a full windup or hybrid delivery when there’s a runner on third given the unlikelihood of that runner trying to steal home.
The committee is also considering reducing the number of mound visits per team in a game from five to four. A team that used all four would still get one extra visit in the ninth inning.
Another potential change: requiring a pitcher that warms up to face at least one batter. A pitcher who comes out of the bullpen is already required to face at least one hitter, barring injury. Unless that pitcher completes an inning within the first hitter or two, they have to go up against a minimum of three batters.
That only applies for a new pitcher entering the game, however. A pitcher who has faced three or more hitters and concluded the preceding inning can warm up for the beginning of an ensuing frame before being subbed out. While a rare occurrence, this sometimes happens when the batting team calls for a pinch-hitter that spurs a pitching change, usually to mitigate the pinch-hitter’s platoon advantage. Since the oncoming reliever throws warm-up pitches of his own, that can lead to consecutive warm-up breaks with no at-bat, causing a few minutes of dead time. Requiring a pitcher who warms up to face the first hitter would eliminate that occurrence (while offering a slight advantage to the offense in such scenarios).
Free agent infielder Whit Merrifield, one of the player representatives on the committee, proposed a change designed to prevent fielders from blocking a runner’s direct path to any base. The goal of that proposal is to minimize fielder-runner collisions and eliminate scenarios in which an infielder uses his lower body while receiving a throw to shield a runner from sliding into a base. That happens somewhat frequently on stolen base attempts.
Rosenthal covers a few more changes under consideration in a piece that’s worth a full read for those interested in rules minutia. The competition committee consists of six MLB officials, four player representatives and umpire Bill Miller. A simple majority can implement those changes without approval of the Players Association, essentially giving MLB control over on-field rules adjustments.