Rule Ch-Ch-Changes: Scuffing is OKAY

Here are some rule changes that will take place in Week 6 and will indefinitely remain in effect throughout the rest of the season:

1) Scuffing is now okay. It seems that the old and weathered balls we had in spring training were easier to control than the brand new ones we used at the beginning of the season. "Scuffing" is a technique wiffleball pitchers use to refer to altering or manipulating the surface of a wiffleball to give the ball more drag and thus more movement when thrown. New balls seem to float and are harder to control because of it. We began scuffing balls during Tuesday's games in Week 5 (and again on the following Thursday). The results spoke for themselves as less batters were walked in Week 5 (16) than any weeks prior to it. Week 4 saw the most walks so far with 47. So far, 28 is the average amount of walks per week and allowing scuffing could help us get the amount of walks back down to a more manageable number. Frankly, it already has. There are a variety of ways to scuff the ball but for now we are only filing the ball with sandpaper.

2) Any batter with two strikes who foul tips a ball into the strike zone is out. If this happens it goes in the score book as a strike out. This rule was in the first draft of the rule book but was taken out because it was assumed that it would not happen that often. It actually happens quite a bit. We have no data to support that statement but if you watch enough of the games you see it happen from time-to-time. With the excessive walking the games have been getting longer and this rule will help a little bit with speeding the games up.

3) Runners rounding third base can now be out if a fielder throws the ball and hits the back stop (or strike zone) before the runner reaches home. The addition of the canopy/back stop has been a real game changer. This new rule is similar to the rule we had in place at the beginning of the season except it was hitting the strike zone. As hard as it is for a fielder to hit the strike zone under pressure it has actually happened twice this season but has not been attempted very many times. It is believed that players will be more likely to attempt to get a runner out at home since the target is bigger than before. It is also worth mentioning that hitting the strike zone still gets the runner out at home if the ball hits it before the runner touches home plate. There has also been some confusion on what is considered as "rounding third". Players have complained that over-running the base a step or two should be permitted. That is fine. As a result we will allow runners to take one step towards home plate before considering it as an advancement toward home plate. If you take more than one step - there is no going back.

4) Yell Safe. There has been some close calls at first base this season since fielders can throw the ball to the pitcher in the pitcher's circle and get the runner out at first. That kind of divided attention can make it difficult for any third parties to make a safe/out call. There have been a few instances where it appeared to be a tie, in which case the runner is safe since "tie goes to the runner." The occurrences of close calls at first base is expected to increase throughout the season so to remedy the situation we recommend that base runners heading to first base yell "safe" once they arrive at first base. It is not necessarily a rule since it is completely dependent upon the honesty of the player - making it more of a gentleman's agreement than an actual rule.

5) When third parties are present, one must keep the score book while a separate person monitors the game and makes calls as needed. We really have no need for umpires since wiffleball is far simpler than baseball and we film our games. More importantly, we do not have the cash to hire umpires. There is almost no need for an umpire at our games but there is at least one play each week that requires someone off the field to decide if a hit is fair or foul or if a runner is safe or out. The video camera can only help so much. Our bases are not raised so it can be difficult for the camera to see if a runner touches second base prior to being tagged/pegged. There are some nights where only two teams play so this rule cannot be enforced at all times but when it is possible to have a score keeper and third party to make calls it needs to be done. Having a do-over every time two teams cannot reach an agreement is a habit that we do not need to get into.

6) Batters that walk must bring at least 6 balls to the pitcher prior to taking his/her base. There is no denying that this rule is very strange. It was created by Jeremy Litton, who has the second largest amount of walks (22), a couple of weeks ago. Since we only play with about a dozen balls the pitcher runs out ever other batter or so and it adds on to the game time when the pitcher retrieves balls. This rule has been in effect since Week 3 and has been the only perk to having a lot of walks. The cases in which the pitcher completely runs out of balls is a lot less frequent than in the past thanks to this rule. So however unorthodox you may find this rule to be keep in mind that it exists for a reason.

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