In case you were worried about the amount of time it takes for an intentional walk to progress, you’ll be happy to know that time has now been drastically reduced. Major League Baseball has now approved a rule change that will replace the pitcher throwing four straight balls with allowing the dugout to simply signal that it wants the batter walked.
Since this doesn’t have too much of an impact on the game, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the players’ union has agreed to the change and it will be implemented this season. One might wonder, however, how much of an impact on pace of play this will actually have.
Not only does an intentional walk not take too much time, but it doesn’t happen too often either. During the 2016 season, for instance, there were 932 intentional walks over the course of 2,427 games. That means one took place every 2.6 games — or about once for every series (which traditionally last three games during the regular season).
Of course, these aren’t the only changes that Commissioner Rob Manfred has proposed to help increase the pace of play. He’s also suggested things like a 20 second pitch clock, limiting the use of relief pitchers, raising the strike zone, and starting extra innings with a runner on second base. These, however, have all run into a lot of resistance from people claiming they change the nature of the game without offering a significant amount of benefit.