I was trying to find some more information on the updated rules but couldn't. I figured the next best thing would be to show what the original rule was. Here is the original Japanese.
For those of you that can't read Japanese, here is my translation:
When there are no runners on base, the pitcher must throw the ball within 12 seconds of getting the ball. If a pitcher is caught violating this rule to delay the game (or literally, "prolong the game"), the umpire will call an automatic ball.
The count-off for 12 seconds will begin once the pitcher has the ball and the batter is in the batter's box facing the pitcher. The count-off will end when the ball leaves the pitcher's hand.
This rule is intended to eliminate unnecessary deeds and to help speed up the game.
To this end, the umpiring crew should immediately call a ball and emphasize the following if a pitcher is obviously trying to delay the game.
- Catchers should return the ball to the pitcher wihout hesitation
- Pitchers should immediately get ready to throw the ball
How does the update differ from this?
For one, time limit has gone up from 12-seconds to 15-seconds. But don't let that fool you, because the definition of how the 15-seconds is counted off has also changed.
The updated rule apparently states that it's 15-seconds from the moment the catcher returns the ball to the pitcher, to the moment when the pitcher releases the ball.
In order to keep batters honest, the updated rule also supposedly includes a clause that stipulates batter's not being able to step outside of the batter's box without permission from the ump. And that if a batter does step out without permission and the pitcher throws a strike, it becomes official.
It's really too bad that I can't find any official documents reflecting the changes in the rule (I've only managed to find newspaper reports and personal blog posts). If anything, I think this goes a long way to showing just how poorly orchestrated this rule change has been.
Unless I'm just not searching in the right places, I think the NPB really dropped the ball here. After the Darvish blow-up and then the Masahiro Tanaka mix-up, it would seem they'd do a little more to try and educate the public as to what's going on (while doing the same for the players and coaches as well).