When you attend a Major League Baseball (MLB) game and look up at the massive scoreboard that’s in the outfield of virtually every park, you will usually notice several columns towards the end of the line score.
There are your usual runs, hits, and errors for both teams, and then some parks have runners left on base (LOB) for each team. However, more recently we’ve seen a new column: MVR.
So, what is MVR?
MVR, or Mound Visits Remaining, is not a statistic but simply a counting measure showing how many mound visits a team can legally take during the remainder of a game under Major League Baseball rules instituted in 2018. As of the 2020 season, five mound visits are permitted per team, per game.
On the surface, this seems rather straight forward, though when you look at how many times extra personnel besides the pitcher head to the mound, there are some exceptions and technicalities in place with this rule.
What Are Mound Visits in Baseball?
The key to understanding the rule behind MVR is to first understand what the rulebook defines as a mound visit.
A mound visit is defined as an occasion where a coach or player other than the pitcher calls time to go to the pitcher’s mound for the purpose to have a discussion with the pitcher. When a mound visit occurs, the home plate umpire signals to the press box the number of visits remaining.
These discussions take place for several reasons. The most common are when a pitcher is in trouble and the pitching coach visits in an attempt to calm down the pitcher’s nerves, or when a catcher visits the pitcher when they cannot agree on a sign.
Occasionally, mound visits will take place when the opposition announces a pinch hitter late in a close game and a pitching coach wants to deliver the scouting report of the new batter to the pitcher.
Even more occasionally, an infielder may visit if they detect an issue with the pitcher’s mechanics or want to discuss defensive positioning or another strategic issue.
Also, toward the end of a pitcher’s outing, the pitching coach may go out to the mound not just to calm down a pitcher in trouble, but primarily to stall in an attempt to allow a reliever warming in the bullpen extra throws.
All of these situations are considered to be official mound visits under the rule, with five permitted per game. Any subsequent visits after using up the allotment of mound visits will result in the automatic removal of the pitcher.
Coaches and/or players who deliberately break the mound visit rule are subject to ejection and fines. However, in addition to these situations, there are exceptions to the rules.
What Are the Exceptions to the Mound Visit Rule?
With the nature of mound visits, there are some reasons for visits that are necessary and reasonable, so they are exempt from the rule and allowed in unlimited numbers at the umpire’s discretion.
At an umpire’s discretion, a coach and/or another player may visit the mound without penalty if there is reason to believe the pitcher is injured, the catcher was crossed up with his signs, an infielder wished to clean their spikes, or the offensive team introduced a pinch hitter.
Going down the list, which is covered by Rule 5.10(m), the first exception, possible injury, is rather obvious as it prevents a team from being unfairly penalized if the pitcher is suddenly injured.
On the second note, occasionally a pitcher and catcher suffer a miscommunication of signs, otherwise known as a cross-up, resulting in the pitcher throwing a different pitch than what the catcher believed he called.
In the case of a cross-up, the body language of a catcher usually gives it away. In that case, the catcher often catches the pitch very awkwardly (or doesn’t catch it at all) due to unanticipated movement (or non-movement) of a pitch.
In that case, the umpire will allow the catcher to go to the mound to discuss the signs with the pitcher and get on the same page without penalty.
Additionally, the back of the pitcher’s mound contains a rubber scraper that allows players to clean mud off of their spikes, something that infielders are allowed to do without being logged as a mound visit as long as they do not converse with the pitcher.
If the offensive team calls on a pinch hitter, position players (often the catcher) are allowed to visit the mound without it being logged as a visit so long as it takes place before the at-bat begins and no coach is involved.
Why Are Mound Visits Limited?
One question you may have about mound visits is why bother going through the trouble of limiting them and then having all the stipulations for what is and is not considered an official mound visit? Well, there is a reason behind it.
Citing longer length of games, Major League Baseball began limiting mound visits in 2018 to reduce the number of times games are stopped by a coach or the catcher visiting the mound. This followed a 2016 rule change that limited mound visits to 30 seconds in length.
Before 2016, the only restrictions on mound visits were that a coach or manager would have to remove a pitcher whenever he visited the mound for the second time in the same inning.
While this rule has remained, mound visits were restricted from an unlimited amount of time to 30 seconds in 2016.
That was followed by limiting the number of mound visits to six per team (per game) in 2018, which was reduced to five per game the following season.
Hence, MLB scoreboards have since added the “MVR” column to make it clear to all players, coaches, and fans how many visits they have left in the game.
The idea behind introducing MVR was to speed the game along. So how well did this work? Well, early returns were promising, with total mound visits cut in half and the average time of a nine-inning game down by five minutes in 2018.
However, with the rules still in place in 2019, game times shot right back up to 2017’s level of 3:05, and further to 3:07 in the truncated 2020 season. So, after a few seasons with the MVR rule in place, it appears that it hasn’t had a massive impact on MLB’s desired goal of quicker games.
That said, the rule appears to be here to stay, so the next time you go to a game and see “MVR” on the scoreboard, you know what it means.