As our internet-impaired attention spans shrink, baseball games in recent decades have gotten longer. That’s a problem for Major League Baseball, which is struggling to attract younger fans.
On Monday, the league announced rule changes for the 2018 season intended to increase the speed of play and shorten games.
The most drastic revision will be a limit on the number of visits to the pitcher’s mound per game. Until this season, coaches, managers and other players could confer with their pitcher as much as they wanted. They’ll now be limited to just six visits per nine-inning game. Teams will be allotted one additional mound visit for each extra inning.
There are some exceptions to what qualifies as a mound visit, according to MLB’s new rules, including:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.
The MLB also said it plans to set two-minute limits on breaks between innings and at pitching changes.
To the relief of players, the MLB won’t implement a 20-second pitch clock or a between-batter timer, though Commissioner Rob Manfred indicated those steps may be considered in the future if Monday’s changes aren’t sufficient.
“I am hopeful that the changes we make directed at downtime will eventually get us into a spot where we’re comfortable with pace of play and the length of the game,” Manfred told reporters last week. “But if not there can be conversations about other types of changes that might go beyond downtime.”