Little League changes the game

Little League baseball is adopting new rules to speed up the pace of play, which leads us to ask this question: What’s the hurry?

Major League Baseball has a problem with pace of play because TV ratings have dropped over the years as people find other things to do besides watch baseball. Fair enough.

But Little League is different. The kids are playing a game and the adults don’t matter. Other than during the Little League World Series, TV doesn’t matter, and if parents don’t want to hang around to watch their kids play baseball, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. It’s not about them.

The new rules:

Starting this spring, batters will now have to keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times. After an umpire warning, the next stroll will cost the batter a strike.

Maybe not a bad idea, but two other rule changes threaten baseball tradition.

An intentional walk will no longer require a pitcher to throw four pitches; a team will merely indicate it wishes to walk a batter.

And Little League is adopting the “designated runner.” A player not in the lineup may pinch run for a player twice in a game, without the slower player being required to leave the game.

Apparently, lumbering players are slowing down the game, the solution to which seems to be forcing the kid to spend more time running and less time sitting.

Other rule changes are more in the “sign of the times” category. Little League will now require criminal background checks of records for sex offender registry data and other criminal records. And the organization is no longer going to allow report cards from school to be used to prove a player’s residency, a nod to the apparent increasing use of “ringers” by some teams.

  • Barton

    Won’t stopping the game to sub the intentional runner slow the game down?

  • Rob

    The walking change makes sense to me; I always thought it was pointless for the pitcher to have to throw four pitches that are purely symbolic. I get that there are ritual elements in every sport, but this is one that we can get rid of without diluting the essence of the game.

    • Sam M

      Eliminating the 4 pitch intentional walk is also important if those pitches count towards their pitch count which I believe limits the amount of pitches in a day.

      I also wonder if the runner substitution is a way to get more players on the field. I know growing up their were “courtesy runners” for pitchers and catchers if their were 2 outs.

      • Rob

        Excellent point! Pointless, fairly exertion-free tosses should indeed NOT be counted against the pitcher.

        • Chris Ohler

          Warm up pitches do not count towards their pitch count. A new pitcher in the game gets 8 warm up pitches and a pitcher that is continuing to pitch in the game get 5 warm up pitches each inning. So the pitchers are limited to how many warm up pitches they can throw.

          • Jono

            They get at most that many warm-up pitches. If the catcher is slow getting out there they may get none!

      • Do they count a pitcher’s warm-up tosses?

      • Jono

        The 4 pitches not thrown DO count against the pitch count. Strange, but likely to avoid silly managers from using this to prolong a kid’s stay on the mound.

      • 212944

        Earl Weaver didn’t care about pitch counts.

        “Want stronger arms? Throw more pitches” was his philosophy.

        While not sure if he was completely correct, seeing three or four pitchers in an inning more often than not makes the late innings a snorefest for me.

        • Sam M

          You watch a lot of little league?

          • 212944

            Sorry … got lost in the thread and thought it was still crossing over to MLB.

    • Mike Worcester

      That specific change has been considered in more than a few MLB circles, were pace of game really is a concern. Honestly I’d be fine with clamping down on the stepping out of the box by batters as it gets tedious watching the constant adjusting of batting gloves, caps, and…other…parts of their uniform.

      • Rob

        Right? My understanding is that the batter is there to bat, not rub out the batter’s box lines or do all the superstition-based step-outs and adjustments. BAT, for the Gods’ sake!

      • Zachary

        is there any rule that says they can’t pitch on the opposite side of the batter? e.g. behind him? This play is awesome, and that’s what you get for not moving farther away.

        • I’m also partial to the “intentional walk pitch being thrown to the backstop.” All of these would disappear in the effort to speed up the game by 45 seconds so parents can get home to check their work email. :*)

          • Thomas Mercier

            Why wait when the smart phone allows you to ignore your kids anytime of day?

          • Jono

            Intentional walks are so rare in LL. This rule change is probably just to mirror high school.

  • MikeB

    Good move to keep the game flowing. Young players watch Major Leaguers step out of the box on every pitch, nip that in the bud. High school has (or had) the re-entry rule to allow a multiple sub. An intentional walk should not require 4 tosses to the plate.

    Other changes they should add:

    Mandatory use of sunflower seeds
    Chicos Bail Bonds-like sponsors
    Weekday games, when parents are at work

    • tboom

      Pop-up weekday games to insure parents remain at work (sort of like pick-up games we had as kids).

  • jwest8

    What I don’t see in the rule changes is anything that makes baseball more inviting for kids to play. Even the most diehard baseball families in our neighborhood have thrown in the flag. Their kids are doing other sports. Like everyone else.

    • Jono

      That’s too bad. Around here baseball is thriving. Kids should play multiple sports anyway.

  • Dennis Armstrong

    The games already move at the pace of the umpire. The intentional walk rule had previously been in affect and I took issue. After last season I appreciate the change in intentional walks. Because of the pitch count, pitchers were hitting batters on purpose to save 3 pitches or batters would swing at 2 outside (way outside) pitches to run up the pitchers count. Smart move to make the change.

    • Jono

      Seeing an intentional walk in LL is super rare. And the new rule you don’t throw the 4 pitches, but you still get docked for them. If I saw a kid hit a batter on purpose to walk him with one pitch, he’d be ejected.

      • Dennis Armstrong

        From Little League, “What’s good about that rule is, it’s four less pitches a pitcher has to throw (and goes against the mandatory pitch count). Sometimes, coaches will tell their kids to swing at 3-0 during an intentional walk to increase the pitch count further. I absolutely like the rule.”

  • Jerry

    Ahh, baseball. The sport that is almost as boring to play as it is to watch.

  • tboom

    “Apparently, lumbering players are slowing down the game …”

    Slow runner is thrown out ending the inning, faster runner advances avoiding an inning ending out.

    Seems to me the pinch runner will slow the game, just sayin’.

  • Lobd

    So, lumbering to me means the kid is probably overweight. And the overweight kid probably needs more activity, and that activity is playing baseball. Now we’re eliminating the running in the game of the kid that needs to be running MORE? Am I missing something? I mean, shouldn’t sport be a fun way to exercise? Or is this because it is “Little League” and a game may “Be Important”? Many MLB players seem to lumber, so what’s the problem with kids doing it?