Baseball’s Hourglass Goes Digital


Baseball’s Hourglass Goes Digital

If you’re one of those people who think that America’s game is slow and boring, cheer up. Reports of baseball’s demise are premature and the NCAA wants to build the fanbase. They’re proposing a 20-second play clock beginning in 2019 for Division I with the other two divisions to follow in 2020.

Is it a lock? Not quite yet but when an NCAA Rule Committee for any sports brings a suggestion to the table it usually is a done thing. The biggest change comes in the form of two play clocks. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will review the change and issue a decision on August 15.

The committee chair, Jim Carone said, “Pace of play is a hot topic item in college baseball. The committee felt, to improve the game, we need to mandate that we play the game at a faster pace.”

What exactly are these suggested rules to baseball that will inject some caffeine into the veins of the game?

Baseball’s Hourglass Goes Digital – Where The Fun Begins

Here is how the 20-second clock works.

  • Time counts down when the pitcher steps on the dirt portion of the mound with the ball.
  • Pitcher must deliver a pitch, pick-off to a base or step off the rubber before the clock expires.
  • The pitcher will be penalized with a ball added to the count should they not deliver within the proposed time frame.
  • Batters who are not ready to hit by the end of the countdown will be assessed a strike.

One clock will be in the home plate area for the pitcher to observe while the other in or behind the outfield wall for the batter.

Following each pitch, the clock will be reset to 20-seconds.

If you thought this wouldn’t be enough in itself to speed up the game you’re right and the committee has other proposals.

Baseball’s Hourglass Goes Digital – The Review

In addition to the clock there are more ideas that will push the pace of the game.

  • A 2-minute time limit after each half inning with the clock beginning after the third out.

Currently, play begins 90 seconds after the last fielder crosses into foul territory.

Greater use of technology but with a limited number of video review challenges is also on the plate.

  • Each head coach would get two per game where technology is available starting in 2019.

The crew chief can review the following at their discretion or with a coach’s challenge at any time.

  • Fair or foul. The ball must touch the ground or a fielder beyond first or third.
  • Is it a ground-rule double or home-run?
  • Catch or no-catch in the outfield or foul territory.
  • In some instances, a no-catch ruling in the infield. If runners are on base, a no-catch within the infield can be changed to a catch only if it results in a third out. If there are no runners on base, a no-catch within the infield can be changed to a catch at any time.
  • Interference by spectators. *No more fans reaching out to snag foul balls that can be played.
  • Deciding scoring plays at home inclusive of collisions (illegal and/or malicious slides) or time plays.

Baseball’s Hourglass Goes Digital – End Of Game

The following plays can be reviewed with a coach’s challenge or with a crew chief’s discretion in the last two innings of regulation or in extra innings.

  • Forced or tag-play calls at any base.
  • Did a base runner pass a preceding runner. Did the base runner score ahead of the third out. With an appeal from the defending team whether the base runner touched base.
  • Hit by pitch calls.
  • Base runners failing to touch base after a fair or foul ball is legally caught are now reviewable.
  • Umpire’s placement of runners following a boundary call.
  • Did interference occur by a base runner attempting to break up a double play.According to Carone, “The technology is available, and so we think it should be used to it’s maximum capabilities.”

When centralized video review is used, the off-field video review official will be considered an extension of the umpiring crew. That individual will be able to communicate with the field umpires that a review should be initiated.

Baseball’s Hourglass Goes Digital – More Rules

Here’s a rundown of the additional proposed rule changes.

  • Defensive players cannot block bases if they do not have possession of the ball.
  • Players who intentionally lean or stick a portion of their bodies outside the batter’s box will add a strike to their count.
  • Pitchers may not fake throws to third and then throw to first. Such a move will result in a balk.
  • The defensive team will now inform the umpire that they want to walk the batter. There is no longer a requirement to make four pitches.
  • Teams may only have six defensive conferences on the mound per game. Runners must stay on base during a conference.
  • A pitcher must stand with their chest and shoulders generally facing the batter with the pivot foot on or in front of and touching the rubber to be considered in wind-up position. The pitcher’s free foot must be touching or be behind the plane of the front edge of the rubber.
  • For a pitcher to be in a stretch position, they must be standing with their chest and shoulders generally facing the respective foul line. The pitcher’s pivot foot must be in contact parallel with the rubber and their free foot must be in front of the pitcher’s plate. It is permissible for the pitcher to turn their shoulders and face the batter while getting the sign and before bringing their hands together in the set position.
  • Umpire’s will have sole discretion with calls regarding pitches that may or may not have hit a batter. This call will no longer be arguable.
  • Team personnel other than coaches who leave their positions, the dugouts or the bullpens at the time of an altercation will be ejected and suspended from the team’s next game.

Baseball’s Hourglass Goes Digital – Conclusions?

It appears that the pace of the game will definitely go faster than it has in the past. Will it feel almost frenetic initially?

Our Special Guest on ACC Nation Podcast July 30 is the Managing Editor of, Kendall Rogers. We’ll find out how these new rules will impact the game and of course, we’ll find out what to expect out of ACC baseball next season.

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