Friday March 20th, 2015

Baseball has been criticized in the past as resistant to change and too focused on outdated traditions and practices.

Not the Bridgeport Bluefish and the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, though! Those two teams will experiment with a rules change that will convert a foul ball to a strike in a two-strike situation. 

The idea was suggested in a letter to the editor in the New York Times last summer. Avid baseball fan and author Paul Auster proposed a novel way to speed up dragging baseball games.

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"I would like to offer a suggestion about speeding up baseball. Eliminate the two-strike foul ball as a neutral play (neither strike nor ball) and rule it a strike. To compensate for the advantage this would give the pitcher, allow the batter to go to first base after three balls instead of four.

"This way, no at-bat could last more than five pitches. Pitch counts would go down, allowing starting pitchers to go deeper into games, which in turn would reduce the dead time caused by changing pitchers — the primary reason games last so long these days."

The two teams will try out the rules change during a game in August this year.

According to Craig Calcaterra, the change will likely just raise the number of strikeouts and walks without changing the number of balls put into play. "Doing this wouldn't just speed up baseball," he writes, "it would render it unrecognizable ..."

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The change could increase the pace of games while changing the way the game looks to spectators. But, it might also give umpires more opportunities to showcase their strike calls, which might not be a bad thing.

 
- Christopher Woody

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