After a great deal of offseason chatter, MLB and the MLBPA have announced seven rules changes to be put in place immediately for the 2017 regular season:
MLB & the MLBPA today jointly announced a series of modifications that have been approved and will be in place in the 2017 regular season: pic.twitter.com/IjVboUSCGd
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) March 2, 2017
The modifications (which aren’t terribly impactful, but are certainly significant) have been approved by both the league and the players and will take effect immediately.
- The first modification is something we’ve heard about a lot recently: eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk. Instead of forcing the pitcher to throw four balls (which is sometimes fun!), the manager will simply signal to the home plate umpire and he will award the batter his base. The modification will save some time, but not very much and lacks much of an impact on the game. We’ve discussed this relatively minor change to death, and I think you’ve all landed where you’re going to land on it for now.
- The second modification is a simple one that I think everyone can rally behind: managers will now have just 30 seconds to decide whether or not he wants to challenge a play. I think, for the most part, the challenge system has been a net positive for the league, but as we saw last year, managers frequently took way too long to decide. Now, it’s 30 seconds or have a nice day.
- The third modification piggyback’s off the second: when a manager has exhausted all of his available challenges, umpires can initiate a review, but only in the eighth inning or later (previously the seventh). Home runs can still always be reviewed. If the goal was to limit reviews, this feels like something that *technically* succeeded, but to a very small degree. In other words, I wonder how many reviews would have not occurred last year if this rule modification were already in place. My instincts suggest very few.
- The fourth modification, however, is another good one: replay reviews must be conducted in two minutes or less (subject to unspecified exceptions). Not unlike limiting the amount of time a manager has to decide, this feels like it could significantly streamline this entire process. I’m fairly happy with these changes, and hopefully they’re implemented strictly.
- The fifth modification aims at preventing teams from using any sort of “tangible” marking system that could help fielders with their positioning. That seems to be a response to some teams trying to set certain markers in the outfield last year.
- The sixth modification HAS to be in place to stop Carter Capps from doing this, right? I think so.
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 15, 2017
- Essentially, a player can not take a second step during his delivery with either foot, less it be called an illegal pitch (no one on base) or a balk (men on base). Seems painfully obvious, but I suppose they corrected it, so … good?
- And finally, the last modification is just an adjustment to where coaches can stand. Those types of changes, while inherently impactful to someone, never strike me as the sort of things strongly fought for or against. Fans basically never notice where a coach is positioned, so I suspect the reaction to be light – if even noticeable.
So there you have it, seven mostly minor rules changes ahead of the 2017 season.
We didn’t get pitch clocks, strike-zone changes, a designated hitter in both leagues, robot umpires, or anything else we dreamed up over the cold winter. But remember, if the commissioner gives the league one year’s notice, he can unilaterally change any rule he wants.
So it’s my best guess that these seven modifications are just the appetizer to some very significant pace-of-play, time-of-game, and offensive-inducing rule changes on the not-so-distant horizon.
How do you feel about them? Good changes? Far enough? Not far enough?