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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Changing the Rules

For the first time in more than a decade there are some rule changes that will be implemented in 2007. Among them (from the story with my comments below):

  • Time between pitches: The allotment for delivering the ball with no one on base has been reduced, from 20 seconds to 12. The price for each violation is a ball.

    It'll be interesting to see if this is actually enforced. I can't imagine it will in any but the most egregious cases since it'll be difficult to implement the timing. Still, a nice idea.

  • Batter's box presence: Conversely, an automatic strike will be assessed each time a batter violates the rule requiring they keep one foot in the batter's box throughout his at-bat, except for certain game-play conditions -- during which he is still not allowed to leave the dirt area surrounding the plate.

    Now this one is more interesting and is easily enforceable since it will be visible to everyone. The wiggle room is obviously in the "certain game-play conditions".

  • Ball scuffing: Rule 3.02 now calls for an automatic 10-game suspension for any player who intentionally defaces the ball. (Previously, a first offense led to the pitch being called a ball, a warning to the pitcher and an announcement of violation.)

    Wow. This one certainly has some teeth to it and will undoubtedly lead to appeals if a player is so punished.

  • No reason for rosin: The same Rule 3.02 now specifically prohibits placing "soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sandpaper, emery paper or other foreign substance" on the ball. The rule's penalty phase dictates, "The umpire shall demand the ball and remove the offender from the game. In addition, the offender shall be suspended automatically for 10 games."

    Same as above - could this be in response to "Gamblergate" in the 2006 World Series?

  • Gender objectivity: The rulebook now includes the disclaimer that references "to 'he,' 'him' or 'his' shall be deemed to be a reference to 'she,' 'her' or 'hers'" where applicable.

    I'm curious as to just how many places in the rule book this might apply to?

  • Update: Interesting comments from Nate Silver on BP Unfiltered. I especially liked "I watched parts of the first inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, trying to time the break between pitches under this definition (this is harder than you’d think, since FOX was usually more inclined to show a close-up of Roger Clemens' flaring nostrils than the batter getting ready for the pitch)." Amen. See this column. And as Nate points out the variability in time between pitches if often the result of the batter and not the pitcher and so the rule about keeping one foot in the box will likely make a bigger difference.


    Mike Plugh said...

    Hey Dan.

    I just posted something similar over at and I think your take is right on all points....especially how many times gender language will stand out in the rulebook.

    Love your work at the Prospectus. Hope to be writing over there about Japanese baseball soon....catch you on the flip.

    Mike Plugh

    Dan Agonistes said...

    Thanks Mike. I'll look forward to it.