February 24, 2018

MLB Limits Teams To Six Non-Pitching-Change Mound Visits Per Game

Earlier this week, MLB announced some pace-of-play changes for the coming season. Teams will be limited to six mound visits (by anyone: manager, coaches, even the catcher or an infielder) per nine innings.

Pitching changes will not count against the total. And, as SB Nation's Whitney McIntosh reported, teams "won't be penalized for a mound visit if a pitcher might be injured, or after an offensive substitution. Expect a lot of managers to start practicing their 'my pitcher might be injured oh nope look he's fine now but that was a good chat' faces". Catchers are also likely going to be far more "crossed-up" on pitches than ever before.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that he was told "there is no penalty for 7th visit to mound, that umps will just disallow it, which I see causing problems both hysterical and confrontational".

After nine innings, each team will be allowed one additional visit for each extra inning. There will also be a countdown clock during commercial breaks and pitching changes. The clock will run for 2:05 during inning breaks in normal games, 2:25 for national games, and 2:55 in postseason games.

In June 2017, David Laurilla and Eno Sarris of Fangraphs asked a bunch of players (and other people): "Just how important are mound visits, and how much would limiting, or even doing away with them, impact the game?" Renowned brainbox Craig Breslow of the Twins:
Rather than questioning how vital they are, or what the impact on the game would be, I would ask, "What would be the impact on pace of play, and overall time of game, by limiting mound visits?" I think you would find it's largely inconsequential. Maybe we'd shave off a minute and a half, and I would be hard-pressed to find an argument that shaving a minute and a half would be the difference between someone tuning in until the end or switching the channel. Another way to look at it is this: if there's no mound visit, maybe you get two more walks and a pitching change. Are we better off with that? ... Nobody can prove how much we need to shorten a game, or how much we need to increase the pace by, in order for there to be a meaningful difference. We're just kind of throwing darts in the dark, hoping that where we land is better than where we are.
During a recent press conference, Commissioner Rob Manfred revealed that he is not happy when people claim that certain teams are "tanking". He noted: "We've always had a cyclical sport."

SB Nation gathered some responses from Twitter: "pace of tanking" ... "Selective Non-competitiveness" ... "strategically misplacing wins" ... "refusing to use redistributed luxury tax windfall on player salaries".

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