Major League Baseball on Tuesday announced rule changes for the 2016 season involving double-play slides and the pace of the game.
Under the new rules, slides on potential double-plays “will require runners to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base.” Contact will still be permissable on these slides, but runners are now prohibited from altering their route to the base just to initiate contact with a fielder. These plays are reviewable for officials using instant replay. Runners can be called for interference if their slides do not fall under the new criteria.
These changes come in wake of a pair of controversial late-season slides that led to season-ending injuries for Pirates shortstop Jung-Ho Kang and Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, the latter of which occurred in the NLDS.
Also newly reviewable under replay are “neighborhood play” calls, which allow infielders to record force outs at second base without touching the base.
The second set of rule changes includes timed 30-second mound visits for managers and pitching coaches. In an attempt to control and regulate the pace of the game, break timers will work in line with game broadcasts and be reduced by 20 seconds. The aim, according to the league, is to help players resume play and “more closely match” returns from commercial breaks.
The league also announced that the average length of games was reduced by six minutes and seven seconds per nine innings from the 2014 to 2015 seasons due to previous pace of game initiatives.