The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel referred an experimental rule proposal for use of a 20-second pitch clock with runners on base back to the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee on Wednesday.
The panel, which met via conference call, wants the Baseball Rules Committee to gather more feedback from conferences to gauge the interest of how many of them would implement the rule during the 2016 season. Panel members are willing to discuss the proposal again at a time to be determined later this fall.
If the proposal is ever approved, the Division I Baseball Committee wants to implement the experimental 20-second, pitch-clock rule for all rounds of the 2016 Division I Baseball Championship, including the Men’s College World Series. A base umpire would keep the time on the field; however, a conference can use a visual clock if it chooses.
Again, if approved, the Division I Baseball Committee would explore whether a visual clock could be used in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The timing would be managed by an on-field umpire during the regionals and super regionals, rather than require hosts to install and operate visual clocks on short notice.
The Playing Rules Oversight Panel had concerns about the experimental rule possibly being implemented during a championship without knowing how many conferences would be using the rule in the regular season.
The baseball committee’s rationale for implementing the experimental rule would be to increase the pace of play and reduce the length of games in the Division I postseason.
In the last four years of the Men’s College World Series, the average length of nine-inning games has gone from two hours, 53 minutes in 2012 to three hours, 19 minutes in 2015. Last year also saw an uptick in average game times in regionals and super regionals.
If approved, any conference from the three divisions would be able to apply to the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee if it wishes to implement the experimental rule. The Baseball Rules Committee would collect feedback from conferences that used the rule.
Under the proposed experimental rule, a pitcher would be allowed 20 seconds to throw each pitch with a runner on base. The pitcher does not necessarily have to release the ball within 20 seconds. Instead, the pitcher must begin his windup motion or begin the motion to come set in a stretch position in order to comply with the 20-second rule. Additionally, batters must be ready to hit within the 20-second timeframe.
On the first violation by either a pitcher or a batter, a warning would be issued. If the pitcher violates the pitch-clock rule again, the umpire will award a ball to the count. If the batter violates the pitch-clock rule a subsequent time, a strike would be awarded to the count.
The timer would start for the first pitch of an at-bat when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber, the catcher is in the catcher’s box and the batter is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
After a pitch, the timer would start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the rubber and the catcher is in the catcher’s box. If the pitcher feints a pickoff or steps off the rubber with runners on base, the timer will reset and start again immediately.