ESPN – Is this the year baseball raises the strike zone? Is it the year the sport does away with the practice of lobbing four balls toward home plate to issue an intentional walk? Major League Baseball has made formal proposals to the players’ union to usher in both of those changes.
ESPN – MLB will test a rule change in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League this summer that will automatically place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings.
The days between the Super Bowl and MLB Opening Day are the dreariest days of the year for sports talk. Even for the diehards, breaking down regular season hockey and basketball games every day can get tedious. Topics like MLB’s pace of play can get a lot of attention in February.
You gotta admire MLB’s attempt to steer the conversation on the pace of play discussion. “Games lasting longer three hours have nothing to do with endless Southwest Airlines commercials. Nothing at all. It’s all those intentional walks and extra inning games slowing us down! Yeah, that’s it!”
Actually, only 7.6% of MLB games last year went to extra innings. Of those extra inning games, 40% ended after just 10 innings. Only 32 games went past 12 innings last year.
There were 932 intentional walks last season. That may seem like a lot, but that’s out of 2430 games played across the league last year. That works out to one intentional walk every two and half games or so. On a night when all 30 teams are playing, you might see about 6 intentional walks.
Speeding up extra innings and/or intentional walks does not seem like the best way to regularly speed up the pace of play or cut down game times significantly. I think if MLB wants to get serious, they’ll have to consider George Carlin’s rule proposals from 1986.
If that doesn’t work, maybe we can cut a few Southwest ads after all. I don’t know that many people need to fly from Manchester to Albany for 49 bucks any time soon anyways.