Although Commissioner Rob Manfred came out hot yesterday about a lack of agreement with the MLBPA on pace-of-play changes for this year, one such change will reportedly be implemented:
Team and MLBPA sources are telling me baseball has approved a dugout signal for an intentional walk, effective for 2017 season. More coming.
— Full Dissident (@hbryant42) February 22, 2017
I know there are folks who have a strong opinion on whether the pitcher should have to throw four fake pitches to effectuate what is actually a simple strategic decision, but I can only shrug my shoulders. Sure, sometimes the pitches lead to zaniness, but the vast, vast majority of the time, they proceed without issue.
Those crazy hits on intentional walks? They’re rare:
— SABR (@sabr) February 22, 2017
Getting rid of these pitches does little to impact the game negatively, besides arguably reducing the build-up of tension that might be associated with the kind of situation where you’re intentionally walking someone.
On the flip side, though, it’s not as if this will do much to improve the pace of the game. There were only 932 intentional walks last year in all of baseball, or about 31 per team. Spreading that over a 162-game schedule, with two teams involved in each game, and you’re left with only about 38% of games that featured an intentional walk. So, in most games, this tweak has no impact at all. And in the ones it does, it improves pace for about 30 seconds.
Look, just because an improvement is small doesn’t make it not worth doing. But, in the grand scheme of things, this change will barely be noticeable, either in pace of play, or in fan enjoyment of the game. It’s fine. It’s whatever.