There is set to be a lot of “this is pointless!” arguments about this rule change.
According to ESPN, the MLB and the players’ union have agreed to eliminate traditional four-pitch intentional walks, as it is expected that teams will now just be able to signal to send a player to first instead of being forced to throw all four pitches.
The motivation behind the rule change is part of the MLB’s desire to speed up games. However, as Deadspin notes from a WSJ article in their report on the rule change, intentional walks have been on the decline recently, and going to automatic intentional walks will save — at best — an average of 14 seconds per game.
And while uncommon, Deadspin also points out taking away the usual four-pitch intentional walk will eliminate some of the crazier moments that we have seen in baseball, as several teams have lost games in recent years thanks to wild pitches on intentional walks.
It’s nice that the MLB is experimenting with ways that may make the game run a little faster, and as someone who has seen it in action, I am intrigued by the idea of a pitch clock. However, this intentional walk rule really seems pointless, and it looks more like a change for the sake of making change instead of actually doing something that will produce results.