TEMPE, Ariz. -- As part of its ongoing efforts to quicken the pace of play, Major League Baseball has implemented a rule change this season that will eliminate the four-pitch intentional walk and replace it with a dugout signal.The new rule has been met with mixed feelings across Major League
TEMPE, Ariz. -- As part of its ongoing efforts to quicken the pace of play, Major League Baseball has implemented a rule change this season that will eliminate the four-pitch intentional walk and replace it with a dugout signal.
The new rule has been met with mixed feelings across Major League Baseball, including within the Angels' clubhouse.
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Right-hander Jesse Chavez, who has issued 25 intentional walks over his career as both a starter and a reliever, said he sees the modification as "a Catch-22." He believes the change will be helpful for relievers, who will no longer be brought into situations in which they must intentionally walk the first batter they face in order to bring up a more favorable matchup.
"It's not fair for a reliever to come in and have to intentionally walk a guy to get to the next guy, because you get locked in in the bullpen," Chavez said Wednesday. "Then he has to walk that guy intentionally and throw four pitches completely out of the ordinary of what he just got done doing. That's where I'm OK with it."
But from an offensive standpoint, Chavez also pointed out that scrapping the traditional four lobs eliminates the possibility of benefitting from any mistakes that might occur during that process.
"That's where you kind of take the what-if out of the game," Chavez said. "It's a game of inches. If [the opposing pitcher] throws it over [the catcher's] head or it just tips off his glove and we have a fast runner at third, we can get a run on our end. I think that's kind of the problem I have with it."
Doing away with traditional intentional walks is expected to cut out about one minute of dead time per walk, which won't speed up games by much. (The Angels issued a total of 27 intentional walks in 2016.) But players are more receptive to pitch-less intentional walks than other proposed pace-of-play initiatives, such as pitch clocks and putting a runner on second base to start extra innings.
"That's ridiculous," left-hander Tyler Skaggs said of the suggested extra-inning change. "I hope they don't do that because that makes it even harder on us. The game's been played the same way for 100 years. I don't think they should change it."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.