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Pace of play changes coming to MLB in 2018, but no pitch clock (yet)

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Teams will be limited to six mound visits per game, breaks between innings will be shortened

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been obsessed with pace of play and overall game length since taking office, almost to the point where it feels like he doesn’t like watching the game he controls.

After talk of a possible pitch clock filled the winter months, MLB announced some pace of play changes today aimed at actually avoiding the pitch clock -- at least for now.

Instead, the league will focus on limiting mound visits and warm-up periods between innings. Replacing the “one per inning, and a second has to be a pitching change” rule, teams will be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per game.

For the purposes of a rule, a mound visit is being defined as a manager or coach trip to the mound, a player leaving his position to talk to the pitcher or a pitcher leaving the mound to talk with another player - regardless of how long that chat may be. There are some exceptions -- for example, discussions between batters “in the normal course of play” that doesn’t require anyone to leave their position, or if a pitcher and catcher legitimately get crossed up in their signs after they’ve already exhausted their six visits for the game.

Reaction from the Brewers has been mixed so far. Manager Craig Counsell says he’s open to ways to speed up the game, but is worried about possible unintended consequences of the change:

It’s fair to question just how much this will help speed up the game, since it seems aimed at getting rid of the “buying time for the reliever to get warm” mound visits, which realistically doesn’t happen much more than a handful of times a game. Defining even the briefest strategy sessions between catchers and pitchers as a mound visit might have more of an effect, but could also have an adverse effect, just like adding a pitch clock might. Causing pitchers to rush or get fewer mechanical pointers in the middle of an inning would potentially lead to more offense, longer innings, and -- *gasp* -- longer games.

The change reducing breaks between innings — to 2 minutes and 5 seconds in locally-televised games, 2 minutes and 25 seconds for nationally-televised games and 2 minutes and 55 seconds in postseason games — will likely have more of a tangible change. It’s always been the most logical way to cut down the length of the average game, but it also requires the league to make fewer ads available, which means less money made for everyone.

We won’t know exactly how much time these measures will save until we see them in action, but trimming around the edges seems like a decent enough of a compromise if the league is hellbent on reducing game times that are still on-par with the NFL.