Major League Baseball proposes smaller strike zone and new intentional walk rule

Major League Baseball is looking to change a couple of parts of the game to increase the speed of play.

MLB has been looking for a way to decrease the length of games, increase action, pace of play, and bring in a younger audience to the baseball fold for years. Now, it’s suggesting changes to the strike zone and how intentional walks are issued to hopefully help achieve that.

According to a report by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the commissioner’s office along with MLB has submitted a proposal to the Major League Baseball Player’s Association that would in part raise the lowest part of the strike zone above the hitter’s knees. The strike zone would not move up entirely, but would instead shrink from the bottom up a little.

Stark points to data that shows that “umpires have been increasingly calling strikes on so many pitches below the knees that, if umpires enforce the redefined strike zone, it would effectively raise the zone by an estimated 2 inches.” The hope is that less strike outs means more balls in play and thus more scoring and action.

The second part of MLB’s proposal would entail getting rid of the obligatory four pitch intentional walk. Instead of having to go through the motions of throwing four soft pitches to the catcher to walk a batter on purpose, the new rule would allow a team to simply signal that they want that hitter to be walked, and he’d take first base immediately.

As stated previously, changes like this would require the approval of MLBPA, but should they agree, these new rules could go into effect as soon as this season.

While the intentional walk rule change would be minor, the Mets would undoubtedly be affected by the strike zone shrinkage. While this would help an offense that strikes out as much as the Mets do, it would also make the pitching staff, that strikes out a lot of guys, work harder. Guys like Noah Syndergaard thrive on living down in the zone, so if those calls get thrown out, pitchers would be forced to elevate the ball more to get calls.

The ball is now in the Players Association’s court to either agree or disagree with this proposal. I can imagine this is a pretty divisive issue between pitchers and hitters, so it’ll be interesting to see which way they go.

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