MLB's proposal would raise the lower part of the strike zone to the top of the hitter's knees. Since 1996, the bottom of the zone has been defined as "the hollow beneath the kneecap." But data shows that umpires have been increasingly calling strikes on so many pitches below the knees that, if umpires enforce the redefined strike zone, it would effectively raise the zone by an estimated 2 inches.
The change in the intentional-walk rule would end the long-standing practice of requiring the pitcher to toss four soft pitches outside the strike zone. Instead, a team could just signify it wants to issue an intentional walk, and the hitter would be sent directly to first base.
Both proposals are part of MLB's attempts to streamline what commissioner Rob Manfred often refers to as "pace of action." But the two changes would have far different impacts.
Getting rid of the old-fashioned intentional walk would eliminate about a minute of dead time per walk. In an age in which intentional walks actually have been declining -- there were just 932 all last season (or one every 5.2 games) -- that time savings would be minimal. But MLB sees the practice of lobbing four meaningless pitches as antiquated, so eliminating them would serve as much as a statement as it would a practical attempt to speed up the game.
The change in the strike zone, however, could have a much more dramatic effect, MLB believes. Its intent is to produce more balls in play, more baserunners and more action at a time when nearly 30 percent of all hitters either walk or strike out -- the highest rate of "non-action" in the game's history.