The Arizona Fall League, which kicks off next week, is considered a proving ground for some of the best prospects in baseball, most of whom are right on the doorstep of the big leagues. Is a guy ready for The Show? Send him to the AFL and see how he does against some of the best and brightest – without the actual pressure of big league games.
You could use much of that same language to describe something MLB is going to be doing in the AFL this year: testing new pace of game rules changes to see how they work, and whether they’re ready for implementation at the big league level in 2015. Among the changes being tested:
- A 20-second pitch clock – as in, an actual clock operated in the park (Salt River Fields games only).
- Batters must keep one foot in the box throughout a plate appearance, except after foul balls, when pitches force them out of the box, or when explicitly granted time by the umpire.
- Pitching changes may take no longer than 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
- Inning changes may take no longer than 2 minutes and 5 seconds.
- Teams are limited to three total “timeout” conferences involving pitchers, catchers, positional players, managers, coaches, and/or batters. Pitching changes and injuries do not count.
- Violations of these rules tend to result in the penalty you’d expect (strike called, ball called).
- Pitchers no longer need to throw four pitches for an intentional walk.
You’ll recall that MLB experimented with a replay system last year in the AFL before implementing it this season. In other words, these changes are explicitly under consideration for the 2015 season, and that makes me very happy. MLB recently formed a Pace of Play Committee to work on these issues.