For the second-consecutive offseason, the Frontier League has altered some of the fundamental rules of baseball, in order to ensure games go by quicker. Last season, it was the implementation of the sudden death extra innings rule, and this season, it’s the addition of a pitch clock, along with various other rules that will alter how the game is played.
The most noticeable change is going to be the pitch clock. According to the Frontier league’s release, pitchers will have 14 seconds to deliver the ball toward home plate when there are no runners on base, and it will be upped to 18 seconds while runners are on base. The rule will also have an impact on the batter, who must be in the box and ready to hit with no less than nine seconds remaining on the clock.
That change will certainly take some getting used to for baseball fans, especially those who consider themselves traditionalists. But the pitchers are going to be the most affected by the rule. A number of pitches in the Frontier League who like to work quickly may be alright, but for others, being forced to increase the pace at which they pitch could be an impossible challenge. Nevertheless, Jamie Bennett, the field manager of the Schaumberg Boomers, is excited to see what the rule change can do for the game.
“I am excited to see the use of the pitch clock in our league,” Bennett said. “Deep down I am a baseball traditionalist, but this is one of those things that I believe will have a positive impact on our league and the fan experience. It will keep the game moving and prevent unnecessary delays without really much of a rule change.”
The changes won’t end there, however. Once again, the main target is going to be pitchers and the defensive team, as pitchers will be limited to just two pickoff attempts per batter. This will include the pitcher stepping off the rubber. The release states that this rule will only be in play when there is a runner on base, but does suggest that a third disengagement would be allowed, if the runner is successfully picked off. In the event that the runner is not picked off, a balk would be called.
On the surface level, it appears that this rule is going to introduce some kind of double jeopardy into the game. If a pitcher is confident that the third pickoff attempt is going to be the charm, he’s welcome to attempt it, but a failed attempt would push a runner into scoring position at the very least. Perhaps that is an interesting story to watch when teams hit the field once again.
The Frontier League has made it clear; they want to speed up the game, and make things as entertaining as possible. Whether baseball traditionalists and players alike think this is a good idea won’t matter, the league seems to think it’s worth a gamble, if nothing else. And hey, if it doesn’t work, you can always go back.
“The League Directors are committed to offering the best possible entertainment to Frontier League fans, and we believe the addition of a pitch clock will help achieve this goal,” stated Frontier League President Eric Krupa. “These two changes will increase the pace of Frontier League games and provide our fans a more enjoyable experience when they come out to our ballparks or watch our games on FloSports.”
A handful of big, scary changes for the Frontier League this season. But there’s some good news; players will be allowed to adapt and adjust before being punished. The season is currently scheduled to start on May 11th with three games being played, but full enforcement of the rules won’t come until May 30th. There will not be automatic strikes, balls, or balks until then, but warnings will be issued.
With minor league baseball all around the country (now including the Frontier League and other independent leagues) moving forward with these changes, it seems like it’s just a matter of time before these rule changes hit Major League Baseball.
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