MLB could implement pitch clock this season

January 19th, 2018

The stage could be set for Major League Baseball to implement a slate of rules changes aimed at targeting pace of play for the 2018 season.

On Thursday,'s Jon Paul Morosi reported that the MLB Players Association rejected the league's most recent proposal of pace-of-play rules, which was a revised version of an initial proposal submitted last year, addressing the players' concerns with the original. But with the union's rejection of the revised proposal, MLB could unilaterally implement the original rules changes -- even without the MLBPA's approval -- based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified last offseason.

The proposals would both include a form of a pitch clock limiting the time allowed between pitches. (According to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, the clock would start when the pitcher has the ball on the mound and stop when he begins his windup or comes set.)

Under Major League Baseball's CBA, the league must give the players' union a year's notice before implementing new rules. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, that means that if MLB decides to move forward with the pace-of-play changes without MLBPA approval, it will have to be under last year's original proposal, rather than the new version rejected by the MLBPA.

MLB and the MLBPA could also still come to an agreement on a modified version of pace-of-play rules changes, and according to Rosenthal, Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the issue.

Here's how they break down:

Original pace-of-play proposal

• 20-second pitch clock in all situations

• 30-second time limit between batters

• Beginning Opening Day 2018, all violations enforced with automatic ball/strike penalty

• One warning per player per game before being penalized

• One mound visit from manager, player or coach per inning; second visit necessitates a pitching change

New proposal (Rejected by MLBPA)

• 18-second pitch clock only with no runners on base

• 35-second time limit between batters

• 20-second timer with runners on base would be implemented after any season with an average time of game of more than three hours or a game-time increase of more than five minutes

• Automatic ball/strike penalty for violations would be delayed until May 1

• Six total mound visits per team per game

There are several key differences between the two proposals.

• Under the original proposal, the pitch clock would be 20 seconds and would be enforced even with runners on base -- a situation where pitchers tend to work more slowly and methodically. The revised proposal would have a slight time change to 18 seconds, but more importantly would not apply with runners on.

• The time limit between batters is five seconds longer under the new proposal, 35 seconds as opposed to 30.

• Under the original proposal, there is no phase-in period for the penalties for pace-of-play violations. Pitchers or batters taking too long would be penalized from the first game of the season. The new proposal allowed for a month-long period before enforcement of the penalties would begin.

• The new proposal, while more in line with the players' wants, would still allow stronger rules changes to be triggered in subsequent years if there wasn't a significant enough improvement in the pace of play. If game times stayed long enough over the course of a season, or increased by a large enough degree, then the 20-second runners-on-base pitch clock would kick in.

• The rules governing mound visits would be much different. The original proposal is largely similar to MLB's current rules, but with the major difference that a visit to the pitcher from a fellow player would also count toward the limit. The new proposal takes a different direction, allowing teams six "no-charge" visits where the pitcher wouldn't have to leave the game.