In the culmination of the MLB’s pre-season meetings on rules a change to the four-pitch intentional walk has stuck.
A wide range of changes were debated upon including reducing the size of the strike zone and adding a pitch timer and MLB has confirmed the end of the four-pitch intentional walk. Heading into the 2017-18 season, if a team wishes to intentionally walk the opposing batter, they can signal the officials to skip the formality of four wide pitches.
The details of how to make such a call have not yet been finalized, however a few theories have been thrown around at the bargaining table. The manager may be able to make the call by pointing towards first base, issuing the automatic walk, or they may have to wave a white flag to signal the desired play.
The MLB said that the rule change is an effort to increase the pace of games and reduce the overall length. Some fans are not convinced that the rule will have a noticeable impact, as an intentional walk does not happen routinely. Even more, the automatic call would simply save the time of the pitcher playing catch with the catcher four times.
Some players do not mind the change, while others are critical of it. The main criticism is eliminating a potential game changer. Many argue that part of what makes baseball unique is the possibility of crazy, unlikely events that change the pace of a game. There have been numerous moments in the MLB where an intentional walk has gone awry, with a wild pitch or the batter able to pick off the wide pitch with a hit – significantly impacting the outcome of a game.
Other ideas were discussed at the pre-season meetings designed to reduce the length of games and increase the pace, however ultimately, the league was not prepared to implement drastic changes to the game.