Barring new comebacks for Jose Offerman or Carl Everett, the following news might be the independent Atlantic League’s biggest contribution to baseball this year. Earlier today, the league “a season long experiment to explore ways to reduce the average time of a nine-inning Atlantic League baseball game and to improve the pace of professional games regardless of length”. In other news, Steve Traschel will not be pitching in the Atlantic League this season.
Elements of the 2013 Atlantic League Experiment Include:
Strike Zone – The Strike Zone defined in the Major League Official Rules will be called by Atlantic League umpires in 2013. In practice, despite the rulebook definition, professional baseball pitches above the belt are generally called a “ball” these days. In the past, the Official Rules Strike Zone was called and the Atlantic League would like to attempt to measure the effect of calling the existing rule on pace of the games. The objective of enforcing the Rule Book Strike Zone is to see if this will reduce number of pitches in a game and to speed up play by encouraging hitters to put balls in play earlier in the count.
Hitters – Existing Rule 6.02 prohibiting hitters intentionally leaving the batter’s box and delaying the game will be enforced. Managers and umpires shall strongly encourage hitters to be ready to bat, and hitters shall minimize time between pitches. Hitters are not to step out of the batter’s box after every pitch. Public Address announcers must stop player walk out music once the hitter enters dirt area around home plate. After a warning, umpires may call a ‘Strike’ for additional violations.
Pitcher Warms Ups – Existing Rule 8.03 which states “Pitchers will be allowed eight (8) warm up pitches, but shall not consume more than one (1) minute” will now be enforced, as will Existing Rule 8.04 which states “when the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball.” After a warning, each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call ‘Ball’.
Time between Half Innings – Existing Rule 9.05 regarding “keeping the game moving” will be enforced. Umpires and Official Scorers shall monitor time from the making of last out until first pitch of next half inning is thrown. Goal is 90 seconds or less instead of the existing 120 to 150 seconds.
Frequent Visits to the Mound – During the first half of the 2013 season, the Atlantic League will also be evaluating whether modifications to the rules regarding mound visits by the manager, coaches, and position players should be added to the experimental program. While this evaluation is being made, managers have been requested to attempt to minimize mound visits and, where feasible, make pitching changes between innings rather than during an inning.
Game Reports – Within 24 hours following the end of any nine inning game that exceed 2 hours 45 minutes, a written report describing what events caused the game to exceed the 2 hour 45 minutes must be sent to the League Office, by each Manager, Umpires, home club General Manager and Official Scorer.
Enforcement – This experimental program is a cooperative effort involving all Atlantic League players, Managers, Coaches, Umpires and Front Office. The League expects voluntary compliance and does not anticipate needing enforcement actions that might disturb the flow or integrity of the Game. As data is collected and evaluated adjustments to this program may be made from time to time.