In hopes of picking up the pace of play, Major League Baseball made some strong rule changes on Monday. Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander is not pleased with one of the amendments.
One of the rules states that teams will only be allowed six mound visits per nine inning games. This includes managers/pitching coaches going to the mound, and also teammates. The latter of which has Verlander a little concerned.
.@JustinVerlander on MLB pace of play rules on max 6visits to mound by staff/players:"If you're going to make adjustments I personally don't think limiting mound visits between a catcher & pitcher is the way to go..If there's a cross-up n signs those guys (catchers) can get hurt" pic.twitter.com/vrkRwOc1bx
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) February 19, 2018
The good news is that this has been covered. MLB did grant a special waiver for catchers to go out and confer with pitchers if there is a cross-up, as long as the umpire approves it.
Still, there are two problems.
One is that MLB umpires don’t exactly have the reputation for being the most mature people. Yes, that’s a blanket statement and no, it doesn’t apply to every umpire. But imagine getting late into a game when one or both teams has struggled with the strike zone. Chances are, that game will have included a lot of banter between the catchers and home plate umpire. If the team has already hit six visits, the catcher would have to depend on the same umpire to grant that visit. Most would, sure. But we can think of more than one that we’d at least have doubts about.
But really, that’s the smaller problem. The bigger problem is that if there’s a cross-up and the team has yet to use its six visits, the trip to clarify will count as one. One, that seems to punish the team who’s being more conservative with its mound visits. Why should it lose a mound visit for the same thing that its opponent is getting a special waiver for?
Secondly, Verlander is right. The risk in crossed-up signals isn’t just that the pitcher is more vulnerable to get hit. It’s that catchers expecting an offspeed pitch and getting a fastball can get hurt — and hurt in a number of ways. The fact that MLB has this amendment in place is an acknowledgement of that.
Mound visits to clear up a signal don’t tend to take long. Heck, if MLB wants to be sure that only the signal is discussed, it can send an umpire out with the pitcher. But you’re only granted six mound visits per game. Runners get on second base far too often for this to count against that total.