Rule Change Friday: Pickoff Throws

People have been complaining about the length of ballgames for years. While batters stepping out of the box presents its own irritations, one thing that can really get a crowd angry is excessive throwing to first base to hold the runner or pick him off. Years ago, Bill James (and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one) proposed a solution to this “problem,” and I am curious to see what people think today.

The New Bill James Historical Abstract is a classic, not simply of applied sabermetrics, but of baseball writing in general. There is plenty of number crunching beneath the surface, but that is really a minor part of the book’s appeal. While the Win Shares methodology now seems baroque and archaic, the historical information, and, even beyond that, the anecdotes and stories are what really make the book for me. James does not just opt for the illusion of mere description, either. His opinions are openly and frankly stated. One aspect of the game that James did not like in the 1990s (and I doubt things have changed much since then in this regard) is the length of games, and he offers several suggestions for speeding things up. One of them is limiting pickoff throws from the pitcher.

James’ suggestion is part of a number of changes he suggests, but I want to focus on this particular one. The suggestion is that a pitcher gets two unsuccessful (meaning not catching the runner) throws to the bases each inning. The third unsuccessful throw (and each throw after that) results in a ball for the hitter at the plate. (One could alter the number of throws necessary to trigger the ball, it’s the idea of setting a limit that interests me here.) This would change a few things. It would definitely decrease the numbers of throws to the bases, of course. James estimated that it would shorten each game by an average of four minutes. It would also increase the number of steals.

Assuming those things are roughly true (and it makes sense to me), this is a matter of aesthetic preference (or judgment, or “judgement” if you want to get all British). One position that I definitely do not hold is that “this is the game, never shall it change.” It is untrue to history, for one thing. Moreover, if something can make the game better, why not do it.

But would the change actually make the game better, from an aesthetic perspective? I do not have a position at the moment. Making each game a bit shorter is assumed to be a good thing in itself by many (by itself, four minutes is not that much, but every little bit would help), but that is not completely obvious, either. I do not mean just from an advertiser’s standpoint, either. Perhaps some people enjoy the sheer duration of games.

The steals issue gets more to the point of actual gameplay. Personally, I enjoy the game the way it is now. A “balanced” sort of game between offense and defense, power hitting and a speed game… well, such notions of balance strike me as being relative. There is no obvious, ideal ratio between the aspects, at least not from a merely quantitative point of view. That is not to say such a ratio does not exist from an aesthetic standpoint. I enjoy watching baseball the way is currently is. But that does not mean it might not be better to have more base stealing. James puts it this way: “baseball is supposed to be played by young guys who can run, rather than old fat guys who can hit home runs.” (321) I am not sure I agree with everything behind the sentiment and James’ idealization of 1970s baseball, but I understand the perspective.

Baseball, like all games, is a human construction. The rules we have today for it were not brought down from the moutntain by Abner Doubleday. If we want to change the rules about intentional walks or pickoff throws or whatever in a way that will change the game so that it is better, we can do it. As I said before, I currently do not have an opinion on this particular issue, so I want to hear from you. Vote in the poll below, and let your voice be heard in the comments.

NB: If people enjoy this, perhaps “Rule Change Friday” will become a semi-regular post.




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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


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Aaron (UK)
Guest
Aaron (UK)
4 years 10 months ago

The current situation is not brilliant but I think it’s better than James’s proposed alternative.

What is sometimes forgotten is that each pick-off throw does carry cost both in risk (2-base errors aren’t uncommon) and effort (admittedly much less effort than a pitch).

Future Rule Change Friday: no run can score once the catcher has touched home plate while in possession of the baseball, unless the catcher then throws the ball.

AK707
Member
AK707
4 years 10 months ago

Can you imagine the headgames once the pitcher has those unsuccessful throws though? The runner would be tempted to take a huge lead, and the pitcher would be tempted to take the easy pick-off in exchange for a ball. Who would blink first? Adding this to the current risk would be very entertaining.

Also, your future rule change friday is brilliant from a Buster Posey perspective. Prevents collisions on occasions that guys are beat to the plate by a mile, but preserves close plays.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 10 months ago

Yeah, my problem with the rule is what happens after the unsuccessful pickoffs are used up. A decent baserunner then pretty much has a free steal.

An alternative suggestion: the pitcher can only make 2 unsuccessful pickoff throws in a row; he then needs to throw towards the plate.

Max
Guest
Max
4 years 10 months ago

You didn’t solve the problem. Now the runner gets to go no matter what.

This rule is an interesting idea, but it changes the stolen base game too much for me. Zillions of pickoff throws are part of the game. Some people find them annoying, but in my opinion it is not high on the list of problems in baseball.

timmy!
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

The runner doesn’t get a free bag. I’m sure many pitchers would gladly trade a ball to pick a runner off base. If a runner get’s too cocky and leads off too far he could end up picked off or in a pickle. Still it certainly would add more steals to the game but that’s no necessarily a bad thing.

I don’t think it’s correct to assume that the runner would have a free base automatically after 2 unsuccessful attempts.

Adam D
Guest
Adam D
4 years 10 months ago

you’re additional rule change essentially makes every play at the plate a force play… you’re giving no opportunity for a runner to slide under a tag if all the catcher has to do is step on the plate to prevent the run from scoring… if the runner isn’t out at that point, he certainly will be when the catcher tags him while the runner is somehow obligated to go back to 3rd base.

Aaron (UK)
Guest
Aaron (UK)
4 years 10 months ago

Yes, I know. If you can make it to the plate before the ball, you score, if you can’t, you don’t. Seems fairly simple. The ‘throw’ rule keeps things like the double steal of 2nd & home in order.

Adam D
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Adam D
4 years 10 months ago

so… you’re trying to make this back into cricket?

Luke
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Luke
4 years 10 months ago

What is the limit was on how many unsuccessful pickoff attempts can be thrown in a row. For example the pitcher could throw two pickoffs in a row but if he throws a third before throwing a pitch it counts as a ball.

short
Guest
short
4 years 10 months ago

I like this way better. It’s the repeated throws over without any pitches in between that really make a game drag.

Tangotiger
Guest
Tangotiger
4 years 10 months ago

You’d have to have grown up in the go-go 1980s to appreciate the ridiculousness of the pickoff throw. It’s the current era’s equivalent of the mid-inning reliever switch, or the batter getting out of the box to restrap his already strapped gloves after every pitch.

I’m just waiting for the next generation to retie their already tied shoelaces.

Barkey Walker
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Barkey Walker
4 years 10 months ago

Maybe baseball needs to return to its cricket roots–think 5 day test matches that don’t always complete the requisite 4 inning. The idea is to make a game where you can go to the kitchen, prepare a full mean, return and pretty much get what has gone on right away. Ideas:

* pitchers can throw warm up throws between batters (allowing switch pitchers),
* batters can return to the dugout while at bat,
* pitchers can return to the dugout during an at bat (allowing a conference about each pitch with the manager, pitching coach, catcher, maybe get some other pitchers on the horn),
* umpires are to call snack breaks every hour. Each break lasts 10 minutes.

Blue
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Blue
4 years 10 months ago

I thought the gloves thing stopped being a problem when Hargrove retired.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tGm_JajqLo

Ryan
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Ryan
4 years 10 months ago

I’m more annoyed with the LH pickoff move. How come they can just take a step near 1B as a pickoff move, but a RH pitcher has to take his back foot off the rubber first. Doesn’t make sense to me. I think all pitchers should have to take their back foot off the rubber first. A LH could hold his leg in the air a split second to see if the runner is taking off and only then decide to throw to first. That’s crap.

Rice Cube
Guest
Rice Cube
4 years 10 months ago

It’s kind of weird how that’s not a balk, eh? The rule itself is kind of hard for most fans (myself included) to understand.

Mitch
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Mitch
4 years 10 months ago

You’re simplifying it quite a bit. There are almost no pitchers that have the ability to adjust like that mid pitch. It is simply not that easy. Most pitchers have their mind made up before they begin on whether or not they’ll be attempting to pick off the runner. Even if the pitcher was talented enough to do adjust mid-pitch they would have to already be throwing a fastball in order to decide at the last second to throw to first.

AK707
Member
AK707
4 years 10 months ago

Mitch, those are lies you tell. Just ask Andy Pettite if he decides beforehand to pickoff, the guy used to wait til the last second. And the fastball thing? irrelevant – try throwing a curveball or slider grip without the wrist action sometime – they go straight.

Ian R.
Guest
Ian R.
4 years 10 months ago

@AK707 – Sure, Andy Pettitte used to wait until the last second. That’s why Andy Pettitte had one of the very best pickoff moves ever. Most pitchers, even most MLB pitchers, just don’t have that degree of skill.

Joe S
Guest
Joe S
4 years 10 months ago

I have a similar beef with righty’s pick-off move to second, how they can essentially start their delivery and then just turn around. It’s never made sense to. If I were to change one aspect of the game, that’s what it would be.

Another potential Rule Change Friday topic: when a catcher drops a called strike it should be called ball. This topic admittedly does not currently hold too much weight. But it’s another thing that bugs me.

Adam D
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Adam D
4 years 10 months ago

how does a catcher’s ability to catch a pitch have any relevance on where it crossed the plate? unless you’re really trying to screw up UmpireFX

Matt
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Matt
4 years 10 months ago

A RH pitcher does not have to take his back foot off the rubber before throwing to 1st. It’s just more difficult for an RHP to throw directly to 1st without disengaging. I’ve heard that High School rules require pitchers (L&R) must disengage before throwing to 1st.

Could a variation of 8.04 be used to speed things up? With a runner on, the pitch or the pickoff made within 12 seconds? 8.05(h) also allows speeding the game up – Ump can charge a balk for delay of the game.

I just don’t see a need for a rule change. If they really want to speed things up they can do it. I would think a pitcher who wastes very little time actually has a holding influence on the runner as well.

Jeff
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Jeff
4 years 10 months ago

How about this;
If the throw is close enough that the runner has to dive back in, the pick off doesnt count. If the runner beats the throw standing up, automatic ball.

Wait Til Next Year
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Wait Til Next Year
4 years 10 months ago

Jeff, that makes a lot more sense than a 2 throw per inning rule. There’s nothing worse than watching pickoff throws while Big Papi is on 1st.

Barkey Walker
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Barkey Walker
4 years 10 months ago

hadn’t thought of this until I saw this: pickoff attempts would become the new IBB if either version of this rule passed.

IvanGrushenko
Guest
IvanGrushenko
4 years 10 months ago

You mean if you made pickoff moves to 1B without a runner there?

Bryz
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Then you’re just encouraging runners to go back into the base standing up. Granted, it does carry a little more risk of being picked-off, but you’re also allowing the runner to game a rule change that was meant for the pitcher.

Husker
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Husker
4 years 10 months ago

Just what we need. Jeff–another rule that will result in wrong judgement calls by umpires.

Ryan C.
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Ryan C.
4 years 10 months ago

I would hate this rule, eventually the runner could get an obnoxious lead and walk to 2B. There is a 0% chance this ever happens. I’m all for changes to improve baseball, but I really think this is an awful idea.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
4 years 10 months ago

I would tend to agree… and I think it could actually lengthen games… if runners get better leads, they are likely to be more successful stealing, or advancing extra bases… this would lead to more offense… which would lead to more pitching changes… which leads to even longer games.

brendan
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brendan
4 years 10 months ago

I was thinking it might lengthen games if more steals of 2B -> fewer double plays turned. not sure if that would be a noticeable side-effect.

Blue
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Blue
4 years 10 months ago

Yeah, that was my thought as well.

Jake
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Jake
4 years 10 months ago

I don’t think people have problems with action lengthening the games. More runs scored is a legitimate reason for a game to be longer. I think the problem most people have with a typical high scoring game is that it also tends to be high walk. Which of course is great strategy by the hitters, OBP is most important. But as to whether or not it’s aesthetically pleasing I think we can all agree that the ball in play is more interesting than watching someone work a walk. Pickoff throws in the same vein are frustrating because they work so rarely and they just seem to eat up time. I think an interesting alternative to Bill James’ idea would be to have a set length like a leadoff box. This will limit how big the lead can be. In the case of a leadoff box I would outlaw pickoff throws altogether because frankly I don’t find them interesting.

Husker
Guest
Husker
4 years 10 months ago

Dave, nobody minds if the game lasts longer due to more steals and base runners. That’s the good part of the game.
It’s the plays where nothing happens, like half-hearted “pickoff” attempts that slows the pace, which is what fans really mean when they say the games last too long.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
4 years 10 months ago

Runners can still be picked off, and it wouldn’t count as a ball if he were picked off.

I don’t think any one is “walking” to 2B under this rule.

Husker
Guest
Husker
4 years 10 months ago

Ryan, a throw to 2B is not a pickoff throw, so the obnoxious lead will not occur. That would put the runner in a rundown. By the way, rundowns are a lot of fun.

Dave S
Guest
Dave S
4 years 10 months ago

I don’t mind the length of the games… but if I was implementing this rule change… I’d say you get 2 free throws per BATTER. (as the pitcher is generally trying to upset the timing of the batter)

Doesn’t matter which base you throw to (if there is more than 1 runner one), you still only get 2 free throws.

3rd throw (and every throw after that), if you don’t get the runner, all baserunners advance one base.

Once the “at bat” is completed… the pitcher gets a new allotment of 2 free pickoff attempts.

Before we do that though:

Computer/video system calls balls and strikes.

It’s my #1 pet peeve, and I am gonna whine about it whenever I can, to whomever I can, until it happens. Having some old geezer back there in 90+ degree heat calling balls and strikes by how the pitcher is “commanding” the ball is nonsense.

It’s a strike, or it’s not.

Doesn’t matter what the previous pitches were.
Doesn’t matter where the catcher sets up.
Doesn’t matter if the catcher can “frame” the pitch well or not.

Screw all that. Its a strike. Or it’s a ball.

Balls and strikes need to become facts, not judgments.

(/end soapbox)

Bryz
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Love this argument.

It annoys me as well that umpires will call pitches balls or strikes based on who is pitching and/or hitting. Sometimes an umpire will also call a strike a ball if the catcher didn’t catch it.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
4 years 10 months ago

I’m not disagreeing with you. I endorse this completely, but you still have to have someone adjust the zone for the batter’s height.

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp
4 years 10 months ago

Hasn’t Mike Fast, who I think understand pitch f/x and its limitations better than us, said that he doesn’t think its ready to replace human umpires?

Craig
Guest
Craig
4 years 10 months ago

I voted “No” to limiting pick-off attempts. There are many situations, especially late in close games, where preventing a speedy runner on first from stealing second is the single most important element of the defensive game. I would not want to see a rule intended as a convenience or aesthetic enhancement interfering with the game in a crucial situation.

As for IBBs, I would be okay with allowing a “defensive indifference” type of rule where the catcher can just tell the ump to give the batter first base.

I like the “Rule Change Friday” idea. Rule changes always make for interesting discussions.

Ken
Guest
Ken
4 years 10 months ago

A prime example of the crucial moment in a game would be the SB by Dave Roberts against the Yankees in the playoffs. He made it, but that is a situation where everyone knew he was going to try to steal and the game may well be decided by that one play. No rule should interfere with either teams ability to try to control that situation. It would have given Roberts a tactical advantage, hence giving the Red Sox that same advantage.

I am against this rule change.

I can’t believe no one has mentioned it so far, but why is the fake pickoff to third and then spin to first not a balk??? Isn’t the balk by definition a means of deceiving the runner?? When you fake to third and then throw to first, aren’t you deceiving the runners?? Just my two cents worth.

jesse
Guest
jesse
4 years 10 months ago

this rule changecould=More steals could=fewer double plays and/or more 1b filling passes= fewer outs= longer games.

If the pickoff rule in that extreme form can only expect to take 4 minutes off the game(not having read james’ explanation of the calculation, he could account for this already or may be estimating conservatively, i don’t know) at the average length of around 3 hours, or 3 minutes an out, even a few missed outs results in a much longer game.

short
Guest
short
4 years 10 months ago

This was exactly my thought. I wonder if James included reduced DP’s into his calculations.

Rice Cube
Guest
Rice Cube
4 years 10 months ago

Instead of limiting the number of pickoffs, get the umpires to strictly enforce the 20-second pitch clock. Then everyone (batter, pitcher, catcher, defense, baserunners) knows exactly when the window of opportunity is to make their move, and that window shrinks the faster the pitcher’s delivery and/or pickoff move is. That’ll reduce the amount of ball-scratching and cup-adjusting between pitches.

Pitcher has the ball, clock starts. Once pitch is in catcher’s mitt, it has to be returned to the pitcher within five seconds, then clock resets when ball touches pitcher’s mitt. Ta-da!

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
4 years 10 months ago

I dunno. It’s not that I like seeing certain pitchers try to stare down the batters between pitches, and then see the batter stepping out to readjust his shinguard or batting gloves, and then the pitcher steps off. I don’t like seeing all that.

I’d just find the idea of a little clock ticking at the bottom of the screen winding down between every pitch to be a bit too much like the viewing experience we get watching football. Baseball doesn’t have a time-limit, doesn’t have a clock, doesn’t have quarters or periods or halves. It’s that uniqueness which makes it baseball, really.

Phrozen
Guest
Phrozen
4 years 10 months ago

If the runner on first reached on a HBP, IBP or E1, there should be no pickoff moves allowed until the next at-bat. In other words, don’t plunk someone and then try to pick him off.

Otherwise, no, I don’t agree with any limits.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
4 years 10 months ago

So a base runner that reaches via BB can take as long of a lead off as he likes?

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
4 years 10 months ago

Sorry, I misread that. Still, I think if you substitute HBP with BB, the question still stands.

Phrozen
Guest
Phrozen
4 years 10 months ago

If you as a pitcher hit a guy, accidentally or no, you should not be allowed to try and take away his base. For the very next at-bat only, the guy who took one on the elbow can take as much lead as he wants.

I guess you could take the E1 out of the equation.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
4 years 10 months ago

So a hit batsman gets two bases.

I understand your principle, but that’s what your principle amounts to.

Husker
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Husker
4 years 10 months ago

The “fool” part of your name is correct, philosofool. The pitcher can always throw to the base in front of the runner, so he doesn’t get a 90-foot lead.

Phrozen
Guest
Phrozen
4 years 10 months ago

No, a HBP doesn’t get two bases. Just ’cause the pitcher can’t throw over doesn’t mean the guy can walk to second. Think about it. There’s that other infielder standing there, with his own glove and everything. The pitcher can throw to him.

shred the gnar
Guest
shred the gnar
4 years 10 months ago

If the pitcher is not allowed to attempt a pickoff, the runner would have all ability to simply take a “lead” two feet from second base, effectively giving him second base. If fact, if you believe the baseline through the bags is an unbroken continuous path from when the runner leaves home to arriving again, you could just as well say a hit batsman would be able to take a lead all the way to in front of home plate.

Kris
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Kris
4 years 10 months ago

First you’d have to ENSURE that umps stop giving hitters a base when they don’t make an effort to get out of the way.

Phrozen
Guest
Phrozen
4 years 10 months ago

Well, that should be done anyway.

Jibraun
Guest
Jibraun
4 years 10 months ago

Fine you get a limit on pickoff throws, but does that stop the pitcher from simply stepping off or faking a throw? Is there a limit on fake throws to a base? If there isn’t, this rule miserably fails.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 10 months ago

Yes, they also have to enforce the clock.

Mike
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

I think there are simpler ways to speed up the game without necessetating more in-game counts and whatnot.

How about the batter isn’t allowed to leave the batter’s box during the at-bat, and the pitcher isn’t allowed to leave the mound during the at-bat? Exceptions can be made to replace broken bats, if the batter fouls a pitch off his foot, etc. but it eliminates Steve Trachsel going to the rosin 19 times an inning or Nomar Garciaparra readjusting his batting gloves after every pitch?

Rice Cube
Guest
Rice Cube
4 years 10 months ago

I’d like to see a limit imposed on “timeouts” and also a strict 30-second limit on mound visits, and number of times the catcher and pitcher are allowed to have conferences. If you didn’t memorize your signals in spring training then that’s your problem, hehe.

I believe delays due to random conferences, stepping in and out of the mound/batter’s box, frivolous timeouts etc. are much more impactful to game length than the pickoff throw.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 10 months ago

I don’t think the total length of the game is as important as fan annoyance. The following are really annoying:

*pitcher trying to “disrupt rhythm” of batter;
*batter trying to “disrupt rhythm” of pitcher;
*unnecessary pitching changes (i.e. start the inning, change pitcher)

reducing these is more important than reducing play time.

Craig
Guest
Craig
4 years 10 months ago

“If you didn’t memorize your signals in spring training” –
you’re making it kind of hard on pitchers or catchers recently acquired by trade or brought up from the minors, aren’t you? :)

Some of this does not require a rule change. Just because a batter asks for time does not mean the ump has to grant it. MLB can just instruct umps to not grant it so often to “abusers” of the practice like Captain/God Jeter and Nomar.

Rice Cube
Guest
Rice Cube
4 years 10 months ago

I forgot which MLB sub-rule it is but there’s a provision to enforce timely delivery of pitches. All they have to do is tweak the rule to say “you have twenty seconds” and actually enforce it and then any disruption of rhythm will have to occur within that time span. I think that would be simpler than trying to tack on to pickoff rules and dropped third strike rules etc.

Rice Cube
Guest
Rice Cube
4 years 10 months ago

@ Craig, you’re right about the trades/new guys thing but I think this type of rule would force better preparation anyway. Far be it for me to change the way baseball has been played for the past thousand years, hehe.

Corvelay
Guest
Corvelay
4 years 10 months ago

Craig says:…”like Captain/God Jeter and Nomar.”

+1,000,000

Husker
Guest
Husker
4 years 10 months ago

Barkey Walker made some of the points I was intending to make.
I don’t believe that baseball fans dislike long games but rather slow-paced games.
Of the reasons games can be slow-paced, excessive pickoff throws is less important than:
(1) the pitcher (and batter by stepping out) taking a long time between pitches.
(2) too many pitching changes during an inning.
Whenever I find myself getting bored during a game, often even a close game, it is because of one or both of the above.
I don’t know exactly what rules should be made or changed to prevent those two, but preventing them would vastly increase my enjoyment of the game.

Husker
Guest
Husker
4 years 10 months ago

More and more good rules keep pouring in. I have always wanted most of these changes and see no rational reason for not implementing them.
Speed up the damn game! That’s what every fan wants.

Adam D
Guest
Adam D
4 years 10 months ago

If the batter isn’t allowed outside the batters box during the at-bat, does that mean the pitcher can deliver the pitch any time he wants? Even if the batter is not ready for it? That sounds like a terrible idea. If you want a rule like this, it should be the batter is required to keep 1 foot in the batters box (or something like that, but with all the same exceptions you mention)… at least that way he can step 1 foot out to indicate his need to get mentally re-prepared.

philosofool
Guest
philosofool
4 years 10 months ago

I don’t think that this is a problem. The batter is in the box when the catcher receives it, and the catcher has to get it back to the pitcher, which is enough time for the batter to reset himself. The pitcher must set himself on the rubber before delivering a legal pitch, too. Think about where a pitcher is after delivering a pitch; he’s not standing on the mound ready to go from the stretch. In short, there’s no reason that the batter can’t be ready when the next pitch is delivered.

You could have a time out rule that allows the batter to *ask* for time, with the understanding that it will *not* ordinarily be granted without cause. (My shoe is untied, something just started hurting, broken bat, I fell over looking like an ass chasing that last pitch, etc.)

Husker
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Husker
4 years 10 months ago

I agree with you this time, philoso. You may now remove the “fool” from your name.

reillocity
Guest
reillocity
4 years 10 months ago

There does need to be a rule change involving pick-off throws but it’s not the one that you, James, or similar are proposing.

LaRussa twice used bench-ordered pick-off throws to first base during the postseason to stall for his reliever to get more tosses in before lifting his pitcher. My rule change would be that, for each pick-off throw that is thrown to a base prior to throwing the first pitch to the plate, the pitcher must throw one pitch to homeplate before he can be removed from the ballgame. And if the pitcher is somehow injured in making the pickoff throw and unable to throw the required pitch(es) to home, the batter is automatically awarded a ball for each pickoff throw that had been made. LaRussa established a dangerous precedent there, and the competition committee (or whatever it is called) needs to step in now before things get out of hand.

Anon
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Anon
4 years 10 months ago

“LaRussa established a dangerous precedent there”

That strategy has been used for years (maybe decades). However, I do agree that stalling to let pitchers warm up should be addressed.

John Houser
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John Houser
4 years 10 months ago

I like the guy that said 2 throws per batter. That is a pretty good compromise.

I have always thought the rule change I would like to see is reliever should have to finish the inning if they are brought in the middle of it. Tony Larussa is gone, now let’s get rid of the 3 relievers being used in an inning!

IvanGrushenko
Guest
IvanGrushenko
4 years 10 months ago

So Mike Gonzalez is out of a job?

Phrozen
Guest
Phrozen
4 years 10 months ago

That won’t work, though (relievers finishing an inning when they come in). What if a guy comes in and gives up six straight hits followed by a walk? He’s obviously not got his stuff. Are you gonna make him stay out there indefinitely?

I’d be fine with requiring pitchers to complete the at-bat, though.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Is there any data on whether or not more throws-overs suppress steals? I read a quote from Lou Brock once that he never tried to steal off Jim Barr because Barr never threw over to first so he never got to see his “move”. I’m sure you have to throw over some, but a lot of those throw-overs look pretty half hearted and perfunctory and can’t really have any effect in “holding” the runner. Other tactics like how long the pitcher holds the ball after coming set seem like they would be more effective.

David K
Guest
David K
4 years 10 months ago

I made a comment about this further down the thread before I got the idea of searchign for the word “hold” to see if anyone made the point I made.

Regarding “Other tactics like how long the pitcher holds the ball after coming set seem like they would be more effective” — to me, if you limit the # of pickoff throws a pitcher can make, it will result in pitchers simply holding the ball longer, which would be even less interesting to watch than a few pickoff throws.

Chris from Bothell
Guest
Chris from Bothell
4 years 10 months ago

I’d rather see a fake-pickoff-to-3rd-and-then-to-1st be called a balk, first. That move always annoys the hell out of me for some reason.

And I’m firmly in the “let the game take as long as it takes” camp. I revel in not having anywhere to go for several hours when I go to a ballgame. The ballpark is my place to unplug from a rigid schedule and a half a dozen beeping, blinking, ringing devices.

Brad Johnson
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

It’s because you got picked off by it a couple dozen times as a kid, isn’t it?

reillocity
Member
reillocity
4 years 10 months ago

That’s obviously a rhetorical question since as we know from listening to every broadcaster that ever called a game, that “fake to third, throw to first” pick-off play never works.

Husker
Guest
Husker
4 years 10 months ago

It actually did work once this season. I don’t remember who or when.

ChrisFromBothell
Guest
ChrisFromBothell
4 years 10 months ago

Heh, only started following baseball as an adult, never played as a kid. But yeah, it’s that it works maybe once every couple seasons, if that. It just seems overly exaggerated or theatrical or flamboyant or something.

Newcomer
Member
4 years 10 months ago

I hardly remember those days, though I was watching, but I’ve read how Jack McDowell used to be successful with it. You use the throw to third to convince the runner you’re going home, then you catch him in between when you don’t. Most pitchers now seem to turn towards first just in case the runner wasn’t paying attention.

Brad Johnson
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

I’m for free markets and free pickoffs.

Brad
Guest
Brad
4 years 10 months ago

Me, too. No more balks. Who needs ’em?

Also, no more fan interference. If a fan “interferes”, just play it from there if it it’s still in the playing field, or call it a home run or a foul ball if it’s not. I hate that fans are forcibly removed from the ballpark for getting caught up in the action and attempting to get a souvenir. It’s mean.

short
Guest
short
4 years 10 months ago

I wish they’d clarify and simplify the Balk rule as well. If throws over are going to cost the pitcher a ball, but the Balk was more narrowly defined (and hopefully therefore clearer) it might be a good tradeoff.

Nate
Guest
Nate
4 years 10 months ago

Ive always wondered why a relief pitcher needs to warm up both in the bullpen and then when he gets to the mound. Once he steps out of the bullpen he should be ready to pitch, eliminate the warmups once he gets to the mound. pinch hitters dont walk up to the plate and take 15 practice swings and stretch for 3 minutes

Adam D
Guest
Adam D
4 years 10 months ago

as much as the grounds crew tries to make them similar, mounds in the bullpen and the mounds on the field are slightly different. it would be dangerous to both the pitcher and the hitter to force the relief pitcher to come in and pitch right away.

tdotsports1
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Wow, I am surprised such a majority are not in favour of this. Have you watched a Cardinals game lately? It’s completely excessive, and boring.

wiersNRAF
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

If I call it “judgement” can I wear a white wig?

Also, I just re-read this chapter not too long ago. Good to see an article on it. Nice work as always Matt. For the record, I’d like to see this rule change. I disagree with James’ proposal about bats however.

Bip
Guest
Bip
4 years 10 months ago

It doesn’t bother me enough that I would risk tipping the balance between a pitcher’s ability to hold a runner on and the runner’s ability to steal.

Other Nate
Guest
Other Nate
4 years 10 months ago

I would agree with some commenters that the pick-off is probably not the best place to speed up the game.

I hate comparing baseball to other sports but in basketball you have the shot clock, in football you have the play clock, in baseball you could have the “pitch clock”. Just put the clock in several spots in the park so that players and fans can see it. The pitcher can keep an eye on it as he takes his sign and comes to a set. Since there already is a set amount of time for the pitcher to deliver the ball, this wouldn’t even be a rule change.

I’m not sure I would even support this change because I like how baseball is considered “timeless”.

Other Nate
Guest
Other Nate
4 years 10 months ago

Here is another minor argument against this rule that I didn’t see above: It’s another “count” that someone needs to keep track of. Do we need another section of the scoreboard that keeps track of pick-off throws?

Phils_Goodman
Member
Phils_Goodman
4 years 10 months ago

I would prefer if they would just enforce the rule already on the books.

8.04
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call ?Ball.? The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/pitcher_8.jsp

Bryz
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Here’s the issue.

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

We blame the pitchers for violating this 12-second rule, but the bolded portion is really important. If the pitcher is on the rubber but the hitter is not in the box or is in the box but not paying attention to the pitcher, the 12-second count can’t start.

I know we acknowledge the Nomars of the world when it comes to baseball games taking too long, but if you’re going to complain about the 12-second rule not being enforced, you’ve got to blame the hitters as well.

Husker
Guest
Husker
4 years 10 months ago

Amazing! I had no idea that there was another rule that the umpires ignore completely, as they do with the rule establishing the strike zone.
I guess MLB believes that rules are made to be broken.

Bad Bill
Guest
Bad Bill
4 years 10 months ago

On that count, there’s also a rule already on the books that explicitly forbids tactics that clearly have the purpose of stalling while accomplishing nothing else. This rule, Rule 4.15, authorizes a forfeit(!) when a team “Employs tactics palpably designed to delay or shorten the game…” It’s obviously aimed at rain delays, curfews, etc., but all that would be required for it to be applicable to ridiculously repeated pickoff throws would be an “interpretation” of the rule, which happens all the time.

Of course, this one hasn’t been applied in MLB in ages, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be. Baseball would be a very different game indeed if the rules already on the book were enforced — a better game, say I.

Griffin
Guest
Griffin
4 years 10 months ago

So on a 3-2 count with a runner on first and both pick off moves already used, the runner on 1st would be able to take a lead of 89’11”? Since if he throws over it’s a walk for the batter and he advances any way.

Husker
Guest
Husker
4 years 10 months ago

No, dummy! He can throw the ball to 2nd.

Brad
Guest
Brad
4 years 10 months ago

No, it’s only ball 4 if it’s an unsuccessful pick off.

Patrick Dubuque
Member
Member
4 years 10 months ago

My proposal was to reduce the incentive of throwing to first by forcing the first baseman to stay off the bag until the move, like at second. It doesn’t spoil anything in terms of automatic walks or easy steals, but it increases the likelihood of an error enough to make a pitcher think twice.

Brad
Guest
Brad
4 years 10 months ago

Rule changes are fun and make the game more interesting. Let’s just try it for awhile to see how we like it!

john
Guest
john
4 years 10 months ago

The only times excessive pick offs bother me are when they are used to buy more time for a reliever to warm up.

Griffin
Guest
Griffin
4 years 10 months ago

So if the bases are loaded and it’s a full count, the runner on third can stand an inch away from home? That ones for you husker since you apparently have all the answers.

David Carter
Guest
David Carter
4 years 10 months ago

Too many possible “unintended consequences.” Hey, it’s only 4 minutes. Leave it alone.

Griffin
Guest
Griffin
4 years 10 months ago

This rule is intended to save time, so if we’re just replacing pick offs with the pitcher stepping off the rubber to keep runners close then the rule is just as effective as what is already in place.

CircleChange11
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

A few things …

1. LHP’s cannot and do not “hang their leg. That’s a balk and an easy call. Hat LHP’s have done over time is lose the raised toe deliberate step to first and replaced it with lowering the leg just like their pitch motion and “sliding” the foot to the 45 degree line. It’s tough for runners and ou still see lots of guys step back to first on a pitched ball.

2. RHP’s may have to break the rubber, but they don’t do it in an awkward way, such as stepping back to 2B. They simply turn their right foot with toes pointing towards home … And it can Beverly quick. Elite guys will time the runners feet coming together or crossing behind and snap throw to first.

Is the limiting pick off throws really necessary? No.

I’m more in favor of reducing the walks around the mound or batters stepping out of the box for time reduction.

One of the most effective things pitchers can do is simply hold the ball in the set position and let the runners legs “set”. We call it the “quickrete” (fast drying concrete) move.

Also does the pitcher stepping off and/or faking a throw count as an unsuccessful pickoff attempt?

BDF
Guest
BDF
4 years 10 months ago

My suggestion for future RCF discussion: A hit batsman shall be awarded a ball, and not a base, if the part of the body hit is not in/over the batter’s box.

Benefit: Reduce the crowding that is now so common and so (unfairly, in my opinion, so MLB has taken away the retaliatory option) beneficial to hitters.

CircleChange11
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

Another thing that is dragging the game out is managers calling every pitch. There were plenty of times in the playoffs when the batter was in the box and pitcher on the rubber ready to go and the catcher is staring into the dugout for the sign and then goes through a signal sequence, even with nobody on.

In some cases there are multiple guys in the dugout giving signs so that the opposing team doesn’t even know who’s giving the real signs.

Seriously, note this next time you’re watching a game. See how often everyone is ready and the C is looking into the dugout. 2-3 seconds on each pitch? That could be 10 minutes or so right there.

It also seems strange, although traditional, that the BP’s are in the OF rather than behind the dugout, so each RP has to towel off, get a sip, and then jog in from the OF.

No singl rule is going to trim off 30 minutes from the game, but a handful of changes could.

Compare MLB to other sports in the time required to watch all of your team’s games.

NBA = 240
NCAAB = 75
NFL = 48
NCAAF = 39
MLB = 486

You can’t have high volume, high frequency, and high duration. The only folks that can follow every game are those guys without kids (even in the summer).

If the commentary were better or if each game were more meaningful it might be worth it. Watching one football game is like watching 10 baseball games only 27 fewer hours of viewing time.

You can really get most of the information by watching highlights and reading a couple of blogs.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 10 months ago

“You can’t have high volume, high frequency, and high duration” That was the point of baseball, to be the game for stats fans. And you need all of these to make it the game for stats fans.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 10 months ago

Sorry to reply once, “Watching one football game is like watching 10 baseball games” it only feels like that… it actually takes less time ;)

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
4 years 10 months ago

You want faster games? Clone Mark Buehrle. he works fast and nobody runs on him.

I don’t even think this proposal cuts games by four minutes. Instead of more throws you have the only thing less exciting – pitchers holding the ball. If you only get two free throws/IP you will get a big, boring game of chicken.

yes, there is a rule requiring a pitcher to throw home in a certain amount of time. If the umpires don’t enforce it now what will make them enforce it then?

Scott Ross
Guest
Scott Ross
4 years 10 months ago

Before we start changing the rules, why not enforce the ones we’ve got? Make pitchers throw the ball in a timely fashion, stop granting time every time a batter asks, stop granting bases to batters who don’t make a real effort to get out of the way.

ObsidianXIII
Guest
ObsidianXIII
4 years 10 months ago

I think this would just shift what happens with a runner on base and not really cut down on the time.

If the pitcher thinks the runner is too far off base or wants to disrupt the baserunner’s timing, he will just step off the mound and stare him down for as long as it takes to get the runner back to the bag.

Ben
Guest
Ben
4 years 10 months ago

I honestly don’t know why the game has to be shorter. If you love baseball, then three hours isn’t a big deal. If you don’t love baseball, then a two hour fifty six minute game isn’t going to look any more appealing than a three hour game.

David K
Guest
David K
4 years 10 months ago

I didn’t have time to read all 100+ posts on this subject, but in case nobody brought this up, would this rule just result in pitchers resorting to another tactic to hold runners close: holding the ball longer while on the rubber before starting the pitching motion? I would argue “yes”, and that would probably be even less interesting than a few pickoff attempts.

bill
Guest
bill
4 years 8 months ago

Pitchers will just “freeze” runners more often in lieu of throwing over.

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