Intentional walks will not look the same beginning in 2017. Rob Manfred is putting his pace-of-play concerns into action; when teams want to intentionally walk a batter, they will no longer have to throw four pitches — or any pitches for that matter.
Beginning this season, an intentional walk will bring a signal from the pitching team’s dugout and a trot to first base. Gone are the customary four balls associated with this practice, marking a drastic change. ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant reports the league and the MLBPA have agreed to the dugout-signal approach. This was one of the areas Major League Baseball studied in terms of speeding up the game, with an adjustment to the strike zone being another, per Bryant. Nothing will come of a possible adjustment to the traditional strike zone yet, though.
The intentional walk itself has been a declining tactic in recent years, with just 932 being issued league-wide in 2016, or one every 2.6 games. However, it’s estimated this change will save approximately one minute per intentional walk. But gone are any possibilities of a wild pitch during an intentional walk, so while those sequences weren’t commonplace during the otherwise mundane walks, baserunners saw an advancement avenue taken off the table as a result of this.
Manfred indicated Tuesday more changes could be on the way to accelerate games. One radical and wholly controversial change — placing a runner on second base to start extra innings — will be attempted in the low minor leagues beginning this season. Baseball purists are under siege.