Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have changed a rule governing runners’ attempts to reach home plate and the catchers who aim to block those attempts.
Rule 7.13, titled “Collisions at Home Plate,” states a runner attempting to score “may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate).” If the runner deviates from the direct path to home and attempts to strike the catcher, the runner will be declared out.
For catchers, “unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.” If a catcher attempts to block a runner’s lane but does not have possession of the ball, the runner will automatically be called safe.
The new rule does not eliminate the potential for collisions at the plate. A catcher in possession of the ball may block the plate, and a runner is not required to slide into home. Calls on the field will be made by the umpire but will be eligible for review via instant replay if needed.
The rule is being called “experimental,” and will take effect during the upcoming season, according to reports by NPR and mlb.com.
The impact of the rule will be assessed at the end of the 2014 season, and it could potentially be modified before the start of the 2015 season.