Report: Dugout Signal to Replace Four-Pitch Intentional Walk

By Joshua Greenberg – Last Word On Baseball

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball scored a victory in its war against overly long games. MLB has looked at a wide variety of ways to shorten games, and now one of those will go into effect for the 2017 season. Thanks to an agreement between the league and the union, the four-pitch intentional walk will be replaced by a dugout signal. The change was confirmed to Howard Bryant of ESPN by league and union sources early in the evening.

Dugout Signal to Replace Four-Pitch Intentional Walk

According to ESPN, the change could save about a minute per intentional walk. Though that should make a minimal difference in actual game length, this change will at least make some difference while having little impact on how the game is played. Other proposed changes, such as raising the strike zone or a shortened season, would ultimately have been far more noticeable during the season.

While intentional walks are still a part of the game, they have declined in frequency of use in recent years. Last season, pitchers issued just a single intentional walk every 2.6 games. Some may argue that this change eliminates the chance of a pitcher making a mistake and allowing a hit during an intentional walk attempt. This is certainly true, but the rarity of such mistakes makes that concern largely unimportant. Ultimately, fans should notice little or no difference in game play due to this rule change.

An agreement on this proposal seemed imminent before it came today, as Spring Training games are on the horizon. While this rule by itself will make almost no impact on game length by itself, other changes may be coming. Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that the league and the union will continue to consider additional proposals.

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