MLB bags intentional walk to help shorten games

The Sports Xchange

February 21, 2017 at 11:16 pm.

Major League Baseball, in its attempt to speed up play, is starting out small.

In a move that might save one minute every few games, MLB will no longer require pitchers to lob four pitches to issue an intentional walk, reported Tuesday, citing management and players union sources.

A signal from the dugout will be sufficient to send a batter to first base with an intentional walk.

There were 932 intentional walks in the 2016 season, or one every 2.6 games.

Other speed-up proposals — including a move to hike the bottom of the strike, adding a pitch clock and limiting trips to the mound — remain on hold, to the chagrin of commissioner Rob Manfred. He blames the Major League Baseball Players Association for blocking potential tweaks.

“Unfortunately, it appears there won’t be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA,” Manfred said. “I’ve tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, and it does not need to be fixed. At the same time, I think it’s a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed, and continues to change.”

Manfred said MLB is considering imposing pace-of-game alterations for 2018 with or without union approval.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark wrote in an email to USA Today, “I don’t agree that we’ve failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s office on these issues. Two years ago, we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year, we took a step backward in some ways (with the time of game increasing four minutes) and this offseason, we’ve been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.”

Another potential future rule change will be tested at the lowest level of the minor leagues this summer, with a runner placed on second base at the start of every extra inning.

The average major league game last year lasted three hours.