Jayson Stark of ESPN reports that according to sources, Major League Baseball has made formal proposals to the MLB Players’ Union to raise the strike zone, as well as eliminating the requirement for pitchers to throw four pitches when issuing an intentional walk.
The first proposal would raise the bottom of the strike zone to the top of the batters’ knees, as opposed to “the hollow beneath the kneecap” as it’s been described since 1996. This move is no doubt an effort to increase offense in the game as umpires have seemingly been calling lower-than-normal strikes.
This rule would have a dramatic effect on gameplay, as it is engineered to create more balls in play and more baserunners. However, some believe that an umpire could have a similar strike zone that they do now, so many of those baserunners will get to first via walks because they’d take the same pitches at the knees as they did before.
The second proposal is an effort to decrease the time of game. When a pitcher wants to issue an intentional walk, they would no longer be required to throw four pitches before the batter is granted first base.
Stark writes, “Getting rid of the old-fashioned intentional walk would eliminate about a minute of dead time per walk. In an age in which intentional walks actually have been declining — there were just 932 all last season (or one every 5.2 games) — that time savings would be minimal. But MLB sees the practice of lobbing four meaningless pitches as antiquated, so eliminating them would serve as much as a statement as it would a practical attempt to speed up the game.”
These changes can not be implemented until they are voted upon by the MLB Players’ Union. While sources tell Stark the intentional walk rule is likely to be voted into practice for the 2017 season, the strike zone amendment is less likely as it helps batters but hurts pitchers.
Thoughts From The Author:
Leave the game alone. If a batter can’t hit a ball at his knees, he needs to change his hitting mechanics. The pitcher made a perfect pitch, he should be rewarded with a strike, not ball four. Second, as Stark said, eliminating the four pitches needed for an intentional walk would have a minimal effect on the length of games. Furthermore, it’s called an intentional walk for a reason. You are walking him, and the definition of a walk is four balls — Not a signal from the bench. The pitcher should have to make the pitches and literally walk him intentionally. If he throws it over the plate by accident, the batter can hit it (just ask Miguel Cabrera), and the possibilities of a wild pitch or stolen base loom as well. Leave the game alone.