2016 MLB Rules Changes

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MLB Press Release / Full Video Explaination of Changes

MLB and the MLBPA jointly announced two significant rule changes for 2016. The World Umpire Association has also given consent. Those rule changes involve takeout slides to break up double plays and visits to the mound. The changes are contained in rule 6.01, new section 6.01(j) and 5.04(b)(4).

Takeout Slides

When it comes to breaking up double plays at second base, the runner is still allowed to make contact with the pivot man, but he can do so legally only if the following four conditions are satisfied:

  1. He begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;

  2. He is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;

  3. He is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and

  4. He slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

As well, the runner may not engage "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 runner is deemed to have violated any of these conditions, then he and the batter will be called out for interference. Potential violations will be reviewable using instant replay, as will, for the first time, "neighborhood play" calls.

Pace of Play

When it comes to pace-of-play improvements, the league has issued a new directive on mound visits and television commercial breaks. From the press release:

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.

Thanks in part to new rules limiting when a batter can leave the batter's box, average game times last season dropped to under three hours, from 3:02:21 to 2:56:14. Consider the above a strong step in the same direction.

As for the new slide rules, it's partly a response to a pair of high-profile injuries suffered in 2015.

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