MLB, MLBPA adopt slide rule on double plays, pace of game changes

A rule governing slides on possible double plays and two additions to the pace of game program have been approved for the 2016 regular season, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) jointly announced today. The World Umpires Association (WUA) also has given its assent to the new regulations.

SLIDES
Under new Rule 6.01(j), which has been added to the existing Rule 6.01 on "Interference, Obstruction, and Catcher Collisions," slides on potential double plays will require runners to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide. A runner will be specifically prohibited from changing his pathway to the base or utilizing a "roll block" for the purpose of initiating contact with the fielder. Potential violations of Rule 6.01(j) will be reviewable using instant replay. Also reviewable will be "neighborhood play" calls, which previously were exempted from replay review. Rule 6.01(j) reads as follows:
 
Rule 6.01(j) - Sliding To Bases On Double Play Attempts
If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A "bona fide slide" for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:

  • (1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
  • (2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
  • (3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
  • (4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

A runner who engages in a "bona fide slide" shall not be called for interference under this Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide. In addition, interference shall not be called where a runner's contact with the fielder was caused by the fielder being positioned in (or moving into) the runner's legal pathway to the base.
 
Notwithstanding the above, a slide shall not be a "bona fide slide" if a runner engages in a "roll block," or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder's knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.
 
If the umpire determines that the runner violated this Rule 6.01(j), the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out. Note, however, that if the runner has already been put out then the runner on whom the defense was attempting to make a play shall be declared out.

PACE OF GAME
The pace of game program will expand this season to include timed 30-second visits to the pitcher's mound by managers and pitching coaches. In addition, break timers will now mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season, when the timers counted down from 2:25 for local games and from 2:45 for national games. The change aims to allow players to more closely match the resumption of play with the return of broadcasters from commercial breaks.

The vast majority of last year's newly implemented pace of game initiatives will continue in 2016. The 2015 changes centered around enhanced enforcement of Rule 5.04(b)(4) - the "Batter's Box Rule" - and the addition of ballpark timers measuring the break time between innings and during pitching changes. Those efforts contributed to a reduction of six minutes and seven seconds (6:07) per nine-inning game from 2014 to 2015, dropping the average length from 3:02:21 to 2:56:14.