The Arizona Fall League is often regarded to as a finishing school for the game's top prospects. And while the player development that takes place during the Fall League is vital, the league also serves as a testing ground for potential rule changes.Since 2014, the Fall League has been used
The Arizona Fall League is often regarded to as a finishing school for the game's top prospects. And while the player development that takes place during the Fall League is vital, the league also serves as a testing ground for potential rule changes.
Since 2014, the Fall League has been used to test pace-of-game initiatives and last year the league also experimented with a new baseball. The 2017 season will also see some changes implemented, most notably a runner placement rule for games in extra innings.
Similar to what took place in the World Baseball Classic and what was also enforced during the Arizona Summer, Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast Leagues during the 2017 season, a runner will be automatically placed on second base at the start of extra innings.
The player who made the final out (or a pinch-runner) of the ninth inning will be placed on second base to start the 10th and the inning will then proceed as normal. If the game doesn't end in the 10th, a runner will be also placed on second to begin the 11th, however Fall League games end in a tie if there is no winner after 11 innings.
As for the pitchers, the runner automatically placed on second base will be scored as having reached on an error so that no earned runs will be charged to the pitcher if the inherited runner scores.
In addition to the runner placement rule, the Fall League has also adjusted its pitch-clock rules, providing different times for when the bases are empty or occupied.
With no runners on base the pitcher must come set or begin his motion before the 12-second clock expires. But if there is a runner on base, there will be a 15-second clock instead. In both instances, the clock starts once the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher while on the mound.
If the pitcher does not come set or begin his motion in time, he will be penalized with an automatic "ball." Coversely, if the batter is not in the box with five seconds left on the clock, an automatic "strike" will be called.
All of the pace-of-play initiatives that will be in effect for the 2017 Arizona Fall League are as follows:
2:15 Break Clock The 2:15 clock starts as soon as the third out is made every half inning. The pitcher can deliver the pitch as soon as he and the batter are ready, however, the pitcher must begin his motion and the batter must be in the batter's box ready to hit by 0:00 on the clock.
Pitch Clock with no runners on base: 12 Seconds: As soon as the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher while on the dirt circle of the mound during an at-bat, the 12-second clock begins. The pitcher must come set or begin his motion before the clock reaches 0:00 or he will be penalized with an automatic "ball." The hitter must be in the batter's box by the time the clock reaches 0:05 or he will be penalized with an automatic "strike". The 12-second clock is waved off and restarted on the next pitch after plays that prompt the hitter to exit the batter's box (inside pitch, foul ball, etc.).
Pitch Clock with runners on base: 15 Seconds: Once a batter becomes a baserunner, the in-game pitch clock will begin counting down from 15 rather than 12. The same rules apply, as soon the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher while on the dirt circle of the mound during an at-bat, the 15-second clock begins. The pitcher must come set or begin his motion before the clock reaches 0:00 or he will be penalized with an automatic "ball." The hitter must be in the batter's box by the time the clock reaches 0:05 or he will be penalized with an automatic "strike". The 15-second clock is waved off and restarted on the next pitch after plays that prompt the hitter to exit the batter's box (inside pitch, foul ball, etc.).
Once the bases are cleared of baserunners or a new inning begins, the clock will reset back to the 12-second pitch clock.
30-Second Timer Between Batters: The 30-second clock will start as soon as the umpire signals the prior batter out or the prior play concludes during an inning except for the first batter after a break which will use the inning clock described above. The hitter should be in the batter's box with at least 15 seconds remaining on the clock. If the batter is not in the box and alert to the pitcher with at least five seconds remaining, the umpire should call an automatic "strike" on the batter. If the pitcher does not begin his motion or come set to deliver the pitch prior to the expiration of the timer, the umpire should call an automatic "ball." In the event the umpire calls time to stop the game (e.g., for the batter to give his batting gloves/protective gear to base coach), the field timing coordinator should shut off the 30-second clock and instead utilize the 15-second pitch clock as detailed above.
30 Second Mound Visit Timer: The stadium timer shall operate during mound visits initiated by a Manager or Coach. The timer will be set at 30 seconds and will begin counting down when the Manager or Coach has exited the dugout and timeout for a mound visit has been granted by the Umpire.
Extra-Inning Runner Placement: In 2017, the Arizona Summer, Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast Leagues implemented the Experimental Rule Starting Extra Innings with a Runner on Base. This experimental rule will replace Official Baseball rule 7.01(b) and will continue with the 2017 Arizona Fall League.
If the score is tied after nine completed innings play shall continue until (1) the visiting team has scored more total runs than the home team at the end of a completed inning, or (2) the home team scores the winning run in an uncompleted inning.
(1) For championship season games in the Arizona Fall League each half-inning following the ninth inning (or seventh inning if part of a doubleheader) will begin with a runner on second base. The batter who leads off an inning shall continue to be the batter who would lead off the inning in the absence of this extra-innings rule. The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning's leadoff hitter. By way of example, if the number five hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the tenth inning, the number four player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base. Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game, as is the case in all circumstances under the Official Baseball Rules.
For purposes of calculating earned runs under Rule 9.16, the runner who begins an inning on second base pursuant to this rule shall be deemed to be a runner who has reached second base because of a fielding error, but no error shall be charged to the opposing team or to any player. For purposes of Rule 9.02, the official scorer shall keep records of the number of times each batter and runner is placed at second base in accordance with this experimental rule.
NOTE: In accordance with Arizona Fall League extra innings rules, the "Robinson Rule" will still be in affect and all games will end in a tie following the completion of 11 innings.
William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.