MLB Proposes Scrapping Intentional Walk Pitches, Raising Strike Zone

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Major League Baseball proposed two new rules changes to the MLB Players Association, and one of them is sure to cause a stir.

The league wants to see how players feel about doing away with making pitchers throw four balls on intentional walks and raising the bottom of the strike zone to the top of the batter’s knees, sources told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark on Monday. The rule changes would need approval from the Players Association some time over the next two months in order to take effect.

The intentional walk rule likely will be met with little fanfare, as free passes have been on the decline in general. Stark noted there were just 932 walks in all of Major League Baseball last season, and even then it’s rare a pitcher misses his target and throws a wild pitch to make things interesting.

Raising the strike zone, however, would affect the game in a much bigger way, and it wouldn’t be positive for everyone. MLB wants the change in order to put more balls in play, create more action and theoretically speed the game up, but that obviously is a better deal for hitters than pitchers.

There’s also the issue that umpires call strikes lower than “the hollow beneath the kneecap,” and Stark estimated the new rule would raise the strike zone about two inches because of that. Pitchers who don’t throw hard often rely on low, breaking pitches to get batters out or induce ground balls, and knowing those pitches wouldn’t be called strikes could force them to change their entire approach to the game.

Still, sources told Stark the intentional walk rule is more likely to pass than the shrunken strike zone, so there might be nothing to worry about. Well, for the 2017 season, at least.

Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images

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