Atlantic League Acts on Pace of Play

"I was a rookie when I reached 1st back on an error in the 3rd  inning. Now it's only the 6th inning and we are still tied at 0-0. If this were soccer, the game would have been over hours ago and somebody would've been awars the win on points."

“I was a rookie when I reached 1st back on an error in the 3rd inning. Now it’s only the 6th inning and we are still tied at 0-0. If this were soccer, the game would have been over hours ago and somebody would’ve been awarded the win on style points.”

The following is a verbatim report from the Atlantic (Independent) League on their determination to speed up the pace of play in baseball games, effective August 1st of this season. All of these measures seem reasonable, all contain a system of discrete measurement, all hold consequences for a player and his team if they are not abided, and everyone of them are going to require umpires, or additional field over-site staff, to work harder and keep track of those items that must now be monitored to keep the re-education process of positive change alive.

I’ve long believed, for example, that Rule 8.04 (requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied) was a good one, but that it only lasted for as long as the umpires paid it clear and consistent enforcement attention. Once the umpires began to wilt on the steady grind and heat of a long season, it fell by the wayside as a rule that no one any longer took seriously.

Aside from the changes here that allow for an automatic pinch runner for catchers and the signal to first on intentional walks that no longer requires clubs to risk throwing a wild pitch in the normal four ball tosses, the biggest challenge for arbiters is going to be  keeping up and maintaining a uniform attention to these rule enforcements. We don’t need change that expands upon the problem of the strike zone –  a change of pace program that depends entirely upon the way an individual chief umpire in the game decides to enforce the measures in place.

We may need some kind of official that keeps track of time and penalty ball/strike calls for violators in a way that doesn’t distract the home plate umpires as they continue their long–time search for the universal strike zone while also handling fair/foul, and safe/out calls – and settling player disputes.

Here’s the Atlantic League report. Your comments today especially will be appreciated:


Atlantic League Ratifies Six Measures to Improve Pace of Play

The Atlantic League has announced that it has ratified six measures to begin August 1 and continue for the remainder of the 2014 season.  The ALPB will test the effectiveness of the new rules and their ability to speed up games and keep fans engaged.  All rules will be subject to future evaluation by the Pace of Play Committee and the ALPB Board of Directors.

After thorough evaluation, the Committee recommended the following six measures be adopted by the Atlantic League for immediate implementation during the balance of the 2014 ALPB season:

 ”Limited Time-Outs” Rule: The defensive team will be limited to three “time-outs” per game, in which mound visits or on-field conferences take place with the current pitcher.  Pitching changes will not be counted as “time-outs,” and in the case of extra innings, one additional “time-out” will be permitted at the start of the 10th inning and every three innings thereafter. Umpires will enforce a strict forty-five second time limit on said “time-outs.”  If the umpire’s warning is disregarded by the defensive team and play continues to be delayed, the umpire shall declare a “ball” for the batter at the plate.  This will limit the number of times play is interrupted by on-the-field conferences.\\

The “Substitute-Runner for the Catcher” Rule: When a catcher reaches base safely as a batter, the manager will immediately a substitute-runner who is not currently in the line-up to take the catcher’s place on base.  This ensures that the start of an inning is not delayed while waiting for the catcher to suit up.

Reduced Number of Warm-Up Pitches: Reduce the number of preparatory “warm-up” pitches at the beginning of an inning, or when a relief pitcher enters the game, from eight pitches to six, within 60 seconds. Timing is consistent with Rule 8.03 stating preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time.

Automatic Awarding of an Intentional Walk: When a manager or catcher on the defensive team indicates to the home plate umpire they wish to issue an intentional base on balls, the batter is to be automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.

Directing Umpires to Apply and Enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04: The Atlantic League office shall intensify its directives to the umpires and direct them to be more diligent applying and enforcing Rule 6.02 (restricting batters “stepping out” of the batter’s box) and Rule 8.04 (requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied).

Directing Umpires to Control the Pace of Play: ALPB umpires shall be reminded that they control the pace of play and that they need to exercise that control and move the game along in a timely manner.  The umpires shall adhere to the entire strike zone as defined in Rule 2.00 and observe that definition when calling pitches balls or strikes.

Rick White, President of the Atlantic League said, “We are excited to put these new efforts in place and observe how they impact the pace of play.  We hope that these measures, along with others being considered, not only enhance the game for the Atlantic League but serve as a model for other leagues.”

The Pace of Play Committee is chaired by Tal Smith, former President of the Houston Astros and comprised of former MLB executives and players with over 250 years of collective experience in the Major Leagues, including Pat Gillick, Roland Hemond, Joe Klein, Cecil Cooper, Bud Harrelson and Sparky Lyle. Through July 11, 2014, they reviewed ideas and suggestions from various sources. For more on the Pace of Play Committee, visit


Have a nice weekend, everybody. – Hope you’re not in a hurry to get there and get home before midnight.


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4 Responses to “Atlantic League Acts on Pace of Play”

  1. Sumner Hunnewell Says:

    Two things that I don’t like.

    Automagic pass (IW) without throwing the ball. You just never know what’s going to happen. And realistically, how often does this happen in a game (vs. stepping out of the box)?

    And the substitute runner for a catcher…it’s innovative but we’ve played for how many years under the ‘once you’re out of the line-up, you’re out of the line-up”? Again, how often has this slowed down the game?

    How about reducing the walk-up music so guys don’t strut to the plate? Or reducing the in-between inning entertainment (or commericals if you have a big screen in your park)? (My favorite: “Pluck the polyp” game at Bosse Field in Evansville, where you pull pink balloons off of a picture of a large intestine…from some cancer surgeons.)

    Rounding third and heading for home…


  2. shinerbock80 Says:

    Sumner, you certainly read my mind about the intentional walk. It’s not always what it is either intended or expected to be, so that would be taking strategy from the game. I totally agree about walk up time and commercials between games. It has been several years since I was at a non-playoff game at ANY stadium that had more than 75% of the original fans left by the end. Worse during the week, of course. I hope MLB is paying attention to this.

    As for the strike zone, there are many games where it is so absurdly skewed from the rule book that I would happily favor an electronic strike zone like they have on the tennis lines. MLB Umpires need to get over themselves and start calling what’s in the rule book.

  3. Rick B. Says:

    If umpires simply enforced rules 6.02 and 8.04, it would probably do the job.

    That being said, I do not like the “substitute runner for the catcher” rule at all. It smacks too much of other sports in which players can be cycled in and out of the game. I realize it only applies to a catcher who reaches base safely here, but I still don’t like it. Don’t like it at all!!!!

    On the other hand, I don’t have any issue with the intentional walk rule – to me, it has always been a waste of time for pitchers to have to throw all four balls of an intentional walk.

    Give pitchers the one minute’s worth of warm-up pitches that the rule allows them. If they can throw eight instead of six, fine. If they only get in five, too bad. Just limit them to the one minute.

    I’m okay with the limited timeouts rule. These guys have played long enough that they should have a pretty good idea of what to do in each game situation. If it’s a key situation, then they do get the limited number of timeouts.

    As for umpires controlling the pace of play, it would be nice if they did so. I was at this Wednesday’s Skeeters game, and one of Lancaster’s batters didn’t like the umpires call at first base (it was a bad call0. After arguing, he threw his batting helmet, which of course got him tossed from the game. The game was held up for several minutes while the player gathered his equipment and, no doubt to spite the umpire, took a slow stroll across the playing field to leave the game. I know that players are supposed to leave immediately, but maybe it could have waited until after the third out or the umpire should have told him to walk his sorry #$%* along foul territory as he walked to the visitors’ locker room. The player’s casual pace held up the game unnecessarily long and it showed up the umpire. I would have been running that guy off the field if I’d been the ump.

  4. gregclucas Says:

    Didnt go for the BIG change which would have limited pitching changes within innings. Some felt a reliever called into a game in the middle of an inning should be required to stay in until he fails to get a batter out or the half inning ends. This was to cut down on automatic lefty-vs righty or vice versa one batter pitching outings that often slow things down to a crawl in late innings. I agree the need for PR for catchers is right out of high school and automatically granted first base on intentional walks saves very little time. Big thing is pace of the actual game not some of the rare side issues. But they are trying at least.

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