A machine helping with ball-and-strike calls. An end to the hallowed 60 feet 6 inches between the pitcher’s rubber and the plate. Bigger bases.
At the behest of Major League Baseball, the Atlantic League, an independent minor league based mostly in the Northeast, will try out several rule changes in the coming season. M.L.B. said its goal was “to create more balls in play, defensive action, base running, and improve player safety.”
Baseball made no promises about eventually including the changes in the majors, but presumably the experiment is not merely for academic interest.
The changes are:
■ The umpire will be assisted by a radar system that tracks where balls land in the strike zone. Baseball did not elaborate on how the system — called TrackMan — would be used, whether umpires could consult it if they chose, or whether it would overrule calls made by the umpires.
■ No players or coaches will be allowed to visit the mound unless a pitching change is being made. This move would seem designed to speed games, which can be slowed by frequent conferences at the mound.
■ Pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters. This move, which has also been proposed for the major leagues, is designed to speed the game by reducing pitching changes, which have proliferated in the modern game.
■ Defensive shifts will be limited, as teams will be required to have two players on each side of second base. Many fans dislike the elaborate shifting that has come into play in recent years, feeling that infielders’ positioning has become too different from the traditional placements they are used to.
■ Time between innings will be reduced to 1 minute 45 seconds from 2:05, another timesaving move.
■ The distance from the pitcher’s rubber to home plate will be increased to 62 feet 6 inches, a two-foot increase. Such a move would be an aid to batters, and would presumably cut down on strikeouts, which have drastically increased in recent years.
■ All the infield bases — first, second and third — will be increased in size, to 18 inches from 15 inches. A larger base would provide more room for both a fielder and a runner to have a part of the bag.
M.L.B. said it would consider changing or dropping some of the rules at the halfway point in the season, depending on their effectiveness.
M.L.B. has a three-year deal with the Atlantic League, covering selling of players, scouting, statistics and other matters.