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The New MLB Intentional Walk Rule

The new MLB intentional walk rule has had little effect on the overall length of major league games. It was not a particularly bold move, but it does represent a changing of the mindset of those decision makers to speed up the pace of play. The estimated time shaving is around 35 seconds per game.

Here is the official language from Major League Baseball.

Base on Balls

Definitions of Terms:

If the defensive team’s manager notifies the umpire that he would like to intentionally walk the batter,

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From a rules perspective, here are a couple of things to note about the new intentional walk rule:

Over the years a few managers adopted what I refer to as the “unintentional – intentional walk. This is when the pitcher is ordered to throw four balls, but does so without the decorum of the catcher standing behind the plate with his arm extended straight out. Instead, the catcher hunkers down well outside of the strike zone and the pitcher obliges with four “misses.” Managers like Tony La Russa would employ this method because they didn’t want the hitter on deck to get extra motivated during intentional walk process.

The new rule, does however, eliminate the rare plays when the intentional walk is botched, backfires, is used as a smokescreen for a tricky play. Here are some examples of plays we will never see again:

Miguel Cabrera, playing for the Marlins hits the go-ahead RBI single against the Orioles in the 10th inning on an intentional walk.

In a youth game, July 5, 2010, between the Benicia All Stars and Sonoma Valley, a player hits a home run on an intentional walk pitch. It is absolutely crushed.

In the 1972 World Series, the Oakland A’s fooled Johnny Bench with a fake intentional walk that turned out an embarrassing strikeout for the Reds Hall of Fame catcher.

So, gone are the days when the pitcher throws four outside the zone while the watching public yawns and complains about the pace of play. But at least we have some fun memories of what used to happen when the intentional walk went wrong.

Official Baseball Rule 9.14: Base on Balls

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