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MLB Implements “Chase Utley” Rule and Other Pace-of-Play Facts

NEW SLIDE RULE

Due to recent increases in injuries at second base from collisions and attempts to break up double plays, Major League Baseball and the Players Association have agreed to changes on the definition of a slide going into any base besides home plate.

It was announced today that a new slide rule will be implemented for the 2016 season, which is perhaps a direct result of the Chase Ultey play in the 2015 Postseason last year that injured Ruben Tejada in Game 2 of the NLDS.  It doesn’t take long to do a Google search for “Chase Utley slide” and return multiple hits, like the video.

The new Rule 6.01(j) states:

‘a runner will have to make a “bona fide slide,” which is defined as making contact with the ground before reaching the base, being able to and attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, being able to and attempting to remain on the base at the completion of the slide (except at home plate) and not changing his path for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.’

The original rule left judgement up to the Umpire on whether the runner had intentionally slid into the fielder to break up the play, with the general acceptance of ‘being in reach of the base’ as being legal.  With the new rule, players will have to make a play on the base and not on the fielder, while not changing their path from the baseline.  Runners violating the rule will be called out, and the batter will also be called out as previously recorded in the rule book.

Adding into the mix of things, MLB has also made the play subject to instant-replay review.

MLB Replay has also implemented the eligibility of review on the “neighborhood play” (as noted by Paul Hagen at MLB.com), coaches will now be able to challenge if a middle infielder has touched a base with possession of the ball during a double-play pivot.

PACE-OF-PLAY FACTS

Along with the announcement of the new rules on sliding, the Pace-of-Play gang has begun to utilize the play clock a little more for the 2016 season.  I have had the privilege to work as a Field Timing Coordinator with MLB Replay and have seen the development of the movement, so I have heard all the gripes and grimes about the ‘ugly’ clock that sits in the outfield.  Yes, that picture is what I did (no it’s not me).  That was the first year for Pace-of-Play, holding cards to signal the Umpires when they were able to start the next inning.  Now we have automated clocks.

Keeping more with the intentions of the clocks this year, MLB has made it known that between-inning breaks will officially be 2 minutes and 5 seconds to stay concurrent with TV breaks for local games, and 2 minutes and 25 seconds for national games.  For the season last year there was a 20 second cushion and MLB expects the pace-of-play to keep going in the direction it has been, cutting 6 minutes and 7 seconds off the average 9-inning game time in 2015.

Something else to look for this season that will be the most notable change MLB Replay will be using for 2016, is the timing of the coaching mound visits.  From the time that a coach steps on the field and the umpire calls timeout, the clock will count down from :30 seconds, and when it hits :00, he’ll have to leave back to the dugout.  No more seeing the Umpire wait around home plate and then half make his way out to the mound to break up the conversation in a coaching visit tango!  Pitching changes will still be handled in the same manner, with a 2 minute and 5 second break once the relief pitcher hits the warning track.

Although Phillies games this year may not be at much faster of a pace than last year, at least MLB is taking the initiative to try and keep fans interested in the game while pandering to their short attention spans.

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