(Camden, NJ — April 25, 2013) — The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Inc., today announced plans for a season long experiment to explore ways to reduce the average time of a nine-inning Atlantic League baseball game and to improve the pace of professional games regardless of length. Extensive data will be collected this season to assist in evaluating suggested changes.
"The Atlantic League is the closest level of professional baseball to the Major Leagues," said Atlantic League President Peter Kirk. "Approximately 40% of players in the Atlantic League have been in the Major Leagues, we adhere to the Major League Official Rules, and – unlike the developmental minor leagues (Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A) that are primarily responsible for developing young players – Atlantic League teams are totally focused on winning, just as MLB teams are. In the last 15 years, more than 600 Atlantic League players have had their contracts purchased by Major League Clubs, and we will be sharing the data we collect this season on pace and length of games with MLB," Kirk added.
According to MLB, the average game time in the 1970's was 2 hours and 30 minutes. Today, more than half of all nine inning games exceed 3 hours. "Duration and pace of games have become out of touch with our fan base who need to go to work and go to school in the morning, and who are used to the faster pace of other professional sports," said Atlantic League Executive Director Joe Klein, a former Major League General Manager of the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. "We are not trying to change the game, only to help to keep it in tune with the times," according to Klein.
"Historically in baseball, it has been the minor leagues that have been the laboratory for Baseball innovations," added Klein. "For example, back in the day, all baseball games were played in the daytime, until the minor leagues first experimented with lights for night games. Once it was perfected, the big leagues adopted it. We hope to come out of this season with faster games and some ideas that could be considered by Major League Baseball. Some of the things will work and, invariably, some will not but we know that this is has been an issue in our game for a very long time."
Elements of the 2013 Atlantic League Experiment Include:
Strike Zone - The Strike Zone defined in the Major League Official Rules will be called by Atlantic League umpires in 2013. In practice, despite the rulebook definition, professional baseball pitches above the belt are generally called a "ball" these days. In the past, the Official Rules Strike Zone was called and the Atlantic League would like to attempt to measure the effect of calling the existing rule on pace of the games. The objective of enforcing the Rule Book Strike Zone is to see if this will reduce number of pitches in a game and to speed up play by encouraging hitters to put balls in play earlier in the count.
Hitters – Existing Rule 6.02 prohibiting hitters intentionally leaving the batter's box and delaying the game will be enforced. Managers and umpires shall strongly encourage hitters to be ready to bat, and hitters shall minimize time between pitches. Hitters are not to step out of the batter's box after every pitch. Public Address announcers must stop player walk out music once the hitter enters dirt area around home plate. After a warning, umpires may call a 'Strike' for additional violations.
Pitcher Warms Ups – Existing Rule 8.03 which states "Pitchers will be allowed eight (8) warm up pitches, but shall not consume more than one (1) minute" will now be enforced, as will Existing Rule 8.04 which states "when the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball." After a warning, each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call 'Ball'.
Time between Half Innings – Existing Rule 9.05 regarding "keeping the game moving" will be enforced. Umpires and Official Scorers shall monitor time from the making of last out until first pitch of next half inning is thrown. Goal is 90 seconds or less instead of the existing 120 to 150 seconds.
Frequent Visits to the Mound – During the first half of the 2013 season, the Atlantic League will also be evaluating whether modifications to the rules regarding mound visits by the manager, coaches, and position players should be added to the experimental program. While this evaluation is being made, managers have been requested to attempt to minimize mound visits and, where feasible, make pitching changes between innings rather than during an inning.
Game Reports - Within 24 hours following the end of any nine inning game that exceed 2 hours 45 minutes, a written report describing what events caused the game to exceed the 2 hour 45 minutes must be sent to the League Office, by each Manager, Umpires, home club General Manager and Official Scorer.
Enforcement – This experimental program is a cooperative effort involving all Atlantic League players, Managers, Coaches, Umpires and Front Office. The League expects voluntary compliance and does not anticipate needing enforcement actions that might disturb the flow or integrity of the Game. As data is collected and evaluated adjustments to this program may be made from time to time.
About The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Inc.
The Atlantic League of professional Baseball Clubs, Inc. is the highest level of professional baseball, other than the Major Leagues. Atlantic League players are experienced professionals, having progressed through the development levels (Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A) and are all "Major League Ready, " with approximately 40% of Atlantic League players having Major League service time. Since the League's inception in 1998, nearly 30 million fans have attended an Atlantic League game in one of the League's state of the art ballparks. The Atlantic League continues to be the only professional baseball league in an active expansion mode. Over the next few years the League plans to expand from eight to twelve teams, which will join the existing teams in the major metropolitan markets of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Houston.