Long-time Boston Red Sox play-by-play broadcasters Joe Castiglione of WEEI-FM and Dave O’Brien of New England Sports Network are elated with the new rule changes being implemented in the major leagues this season.
Among the most notable changes, pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when there is at least one runner on base; hitters, meanwhile, have to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds left on the shot clock.
If a pitcher violates the rule, the hitter will receive a ball and if the hitter violates it, he will be given a strike.
Last year, the average major league game lasted 3 hours and 4 minutes. The rule changes are designed to shorten the game and produce more runs.
Pitchers will be allowed two disengagements — such as a pickoff attempt, a fake pickoff attempt or stepping off the rubber — per plate appearance. A third disengagement will result in a balk, which will allow the runner/runners to move up a base unless the players advance a base already on it or an out is recorded.
“I love the shot clock. It has had such a positive effect. Fans are going to be shocked at how quick the games are going to be and how much action will return to baseball,” O’Brien said. “And the incessant pickoffs slowed the game down.”
He said games will last in the 2:18 to 2:30 range instead of being more than three hours long.
“It’s like going back to 1977,” O’Brien said. “It’s going to be the way the game used to be.”
The shift has also been eliminated so teams can’t put three infielders on one side of second base or put them in the outfield. At the time a pitch is thrown, there must be two infielders on each side of the second base bag and their feet have to be on the infield dirt or grass.
The elimination of the shift will result in more hits and more runs, Castiglione and O’Brien said.
Last year, there were only 5.33 singles hit per game by each team, according to ESPN. It was the lowest total since 1968.
“It isn’t fair to put an infielder 40 feet into right field against a left-handed hitter. That’s not how the game was meant to be played,” Castiglione said.
The result will be that ground balls that were previously easy outs will be base hits, O’Brien said.
“It will take a great defensive play to prevent some of those ground balls from being base hits,” he added.
Castiglione and O’Brien said it will place a premium on having rangy, athletic infielders.
O’Brien credited the Major League Baseball hierarchy with doing a good job listening to the fans.
“The fans want more action, athletic players and quick games,” O’Brien said.
Castiglione and O’Brien both praised the players for embracing the new rule changes during spring training games.
They also like the continuation of the rule that puts a runner on second base to start every extra inning.
“You could still have an 18-inning game but it will probably be over in 3 hours and 40 minutes instead of six and a half hours,” O’Brien said.