Rule change for 2020

An interesting rule change for this season is that the 20-second rule between pitches will be in effect while runners on base. A pickoff attempt will be accepted as an “action” that would restart the 20-second clock.

Previously the 20-second clock was only used when runners were not on base. When runners are on base, the clock will be kept by a base umpire.

Some questions:

Is the penalty for taking too long still a ball added the the count?

Why will a field umpire keep the time w/runners on instead of the scoreboard? Seems odd.

Does stepping off in the stretch count as “action?”

I don’t have a lot of information on it yet. This is the second year of the NCAA rulebook, which is updated every two years. The 20-second clock language will not be written into the rulebook until the 2021 season.

The NCAA brief on the rule change reads: To require, a 20-second action rule be administered when runners are on base. The time limit will be kept on the field by a base umpire in the same manner the current 20-second pitch clock is administered with no runners on base.

Perhaps the time will be kept on the clock in the stadium, too? Not sure.

According to Baseball America, the 20-second clock will not start until the batter, catcher and pitcher are in their respective boxes, but it can start before that if an umpire feels like one is intentionally trying to delay the start of the pitch clock.

It could be interesting if they actually start enforcing the rule. I’ve never seen the plate umpire call either a ball or strike based on a player taking too long, even though the clock had clearly expired.

I have some more information on this now:

• A base umpire is in charge of administering the 20-second clock. That means if a clock is not visible at the stadium (which is not required), a base umpire will keep the time on the field. If a clock is visible, he is in charge of watching for a violation.

• A pitcher stepping off the rubber does not stop the clock unless the umpire grants him time.

• Each pitcher will be warned once for a clock violation. After the warning, the penalty for a pitcher taking too long is a ball added to the count.

• A hitter will be assessed a strike if he is not in the box by the 5-second mark on the pitch clock.

• Time is paused for a pitcher to step back onto the mound if a play has taken him to another position on the field.

It’s worth reiterating that this is an NCAA rule, not just an SEC rule, which means it will be enforced at road and neutral sites, and in the postseason. This is the first year the NCAA has ever mandated a pitch clock. It has been used in the SEC for years, beginning on an experimental basis.

As Matt said, it’s up to each school whether or not to put a clock in the stadium. All SEC schools have one. Many other leagues have not required it.