Fans who disapprove of Major League Baseball's decision to have a clock govern the game for the first time can take comfort in the fact that the players union is unhappy, too. The sport's Competition Committee approved three rule changes on Friday, including adding a pitch clock. Afterward, Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement praising the new rules, which his office had proposed, saying, "These steps are designed to improve pace of play, increase action, and reduce injuries, all of which are goals that have overwhelming support among our fans." The Players Association's statement said the committee had not seriously considered its concerns about the clock and another rule limiting the defensive shifts that can be used during a game, CNN reports. "As a result, Players on the Competition Committee voted unanimously against the implementation of the rules," the statement said. The rule changes, which take effect next season, involve:
- A pitch clock: Pitchers must throw the ball within 15 seconds if the bases are empty, 20 seconds with runners on base, per USA Today. Batters will have to be in the box and "alert to the pitcher" with at least 8 seconds of that period remaining. A pickoff attempt resets the clock, as does stepping off the rubber, but pitchers can do that only twice per at-bat. A pitch clock that cut wait time by a second less than this rule has been tested in the minor leagues for years, per ESPN. There, the average length of a game was reduced by 26 minutes. Last season's average game time was 3 hours, 11 minutes, the longest ever. Games are running 3 hours, 7 minutes this year, per Sports Illustrated. Cutting the average length by 20 minutes would put games at their shortest since 1985.
- Defensive shifts: Two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base, and the four infielders must all be within the outer boundary of the infield—on the dirt—when the pitch is made. The rule "will return the game to a more traditional aesthetic," MLB said—no more putting a third baseman in short right field because of a batter's tendencies. The shifts are being outlawed because they work, taking away hits. Data show Mookie Betts, for example, hit .325 on ground balls in 2015, when the shift was used against him 1% of the time. When it was used 61% last season, Betts' average on grounders fell to .213.
- Larger bases: The committee approved enlarging bases from 15 inches square to 18 inches. Baseball says larger bases have reduced injuries in the minor leagues this season by 13.5%. They shorten the distance between bases 4.5 inches—no more 90 feet—which could reduce collisions and increase stealing.
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