It’s not exactly a no collisions rule, but things are going to look a little different than they have in the past.
Here’s the new rule, which is a one-year experiment for now, from the MLB press release:
A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).
Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.
So, basically, you can’t try to blast the catcher unless he’s in your way already, and the catcher can’t block the plate unless he’s already got the ball. It’s kind of a flabby rule, subject to a great deal of interpretation. But one thing appears reasonably clear: there can still be a collision if the catcher already has the ball, is blocking the plate, and the runner hits him while trying to score.
That’s what a lot of collisions already are, but I suppose this strongly urges runners to slide, if at all possible, and urges the catcher to set up off of the plate and swipe tag. That was the intent, as that would increase player safety, but this language is kind of thin. Indeed, it kind of seems like this is what the rule already should have been.
I guess we’ll see how this plays out. These plays will be subject to the new review system, by the way.