Major League Baseball passed a swathe of rule changes last week that will alter the game for both hitters and pitchers and is aimed at speeding up the pace of play.
These changes — which won't go into effect until the 2023 season — include implementation of a pitch clock of 15 seconds for pitchers with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on board, as well as a ban on defensive shifts that now requires two infielders on each side of second base (with both feet in the dirt). Pick-off attempts will also be limited (to two per plate appearance, and each pick-off attempt resets the pitch clock) and the bases will increase from 15 inches to 18 inches.
Consider Nationals GM Mike Rizzo in full support of the new rules. Asked during his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies where he stands on the changes, and if he thinks they will drastically change the game, Rizzo voiced his endorsement.
"I think it will. If it's implemented correctly and handled correctly, I think it'll change the game in a positive way," Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan. "If you've watched any minor league game — and I've watched a bunch of them — the pace of play is terrific."
"There's way more action, way more dead time," he said, "and, to me, it's a better game because we keep telling our pitchers work faster, get a flow, get a rhythm, set the pace and that type of thing and we're trying to get our pitchers to get on the mound, get the sign, throw the pitch, keep the infielders engaged, keep the game moving, get a good pace going and that type of thing. So, it's going to be really interesting."
"In theory, I like the rule because it really, really works in the minor leagues," Rizzo said. "Now it's all about how we're going to implement it. How are the umpires going to handle it? How are the players going to react to it? And that type of thing. That'll be the litmus test to me for this rule change. But in theory I really like it.
"I think it's, to me, it's one of the rules that I really endorsed because I like a quicker paced pitcher and, if you can handle the batter not stepping out and the pitcher not stepping off, I think it's going to be a more entertaining game to watch. And it's going to be a better game played. I think the defenses will be better, because who wants to sit around and 25, 30 seconds in between each pitch, and step-offs, and batters stepping out of the box and that type of thing? I think this will improve the game."
Rizzo was asked if there will be a clock behind the batter's box that the pitcher can see and how MLB plans to monitor that.
"Yeah. There's gonna be clocks in a couple of positions," he said. "I'm not exactly positive in Nats Park where it's gonna be yet. Obviously MLB and us will take care of the logistics of that. But yes, there will be visible clocks so the hitter and umpire behind the plate, and pitcher and players, can see it."
Asked about the new limits on pick-off attempts, Rizzo said, "I think pick-off attempts, the clock will recalibrate. I think the hitter has a chance to step out of the box one plate appearance to reset the clock, and I think the pitcher has one step-off per at-bat to reset the clock."
As for the number limit on pick-off attempts, Rizzo wasn't entirely clear on the matter.
"To me, that one, it's still unclear," he said. "So we need some clarity on that and the details of a lot of these rules. What's happened in the past with rule changes, it really comes into focus in spring training where you can really experiment and really get kind of a live-game-action feel of how these changes work."
"I can't imagine any of the players wanted these changes," Junkies host Jason Bishop said.
"Yeah, I'm not sure," Rizzo said. "I know every minor league player that we bring to the big leagues and I talk to, they did not mind the pitch clock. I know when you talk to our young pitchers, I think that they've gotten used to it, they adjusted to it, and I think that a lot of them embraced it and liked it."