On Thursday, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) released a series of rule changes for the 2017 season.
Within the changes are new guidelines for intentional walks. Instead of having to have a pitcher deliver four pitches, managers will now have the option to signal an intentional walk, allowing the batter to immediately take first base.
Aside from the intentional walk change, which has been discussed to speed up the pace of play and reduce the number of pitches a pitcher throws, there are also new rules for instant replay. Managers will now have 30 seconds to decide whether to have a play reviewed, and umpires will follow a conditional two minute guideline in which to make their final decisions.
Changes were also made to prohibit the use of field markings, along with amendments to rules 5.07 and 5.03. Here are the new guidelines, as detailed in the announcement from MLB and the MLBPA:
- The start of a no-pitch intentional walk, allowing the defensive team’s manager to signal a decision to the home plate umpire to intentionally walk the batter. Following the signal of the manager’s intention, the umpire will immediately award first base to the batter.
- A 30-second limit for a manager to decide whether to challenge a play and invoke replay review.
- When a manager has exhausted his challenges for the game, Crew Chiefs may now invoke replay review for non-home run calls beginning in the eighth inning instead of the seventh inning.
- A conditional two-minute guideline for Replay Officials to render a decision on a replay review, allowing various exceptions.
- A prohibition on the use of any markers on the field that could create a tangible reference system for fielders.
- An addition to Rule 5.07 formalizes an umpire interpretation by stipulating that a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is at least one runner on base, then such an action will be called as a balk under Rule 6.02(a). If the bases are unoccupied, then it will be considered an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).
- An amendment to Rule 5.03 requires base coaches to position themselves behind the line of the coach’s box closest to home plate and the front line that runs parallel to the foul line prior to each pitch. Once a ball is put in play, a base coach is allowed to leave the coach’s box to signal a player so long as the coach does not interfere with play.