March 14, 2019

MLB To Institute A Three-Batter Minimum For Pitchers, Starting In 2020

The Office of the Commissioner will implement an amended Official Baseball Rule 5.10(g) requiring that starting pitchers and relief pitchers must pitch to either a minimum of three batters or the end of a half-inning (with exceptions for incapacitating injury or illness). The Players Association has agreed that it will not grieve or otherwise challenge the Office of the Commissioner's implementation.
And so we begin sliding down the slippery slope.

Beginning with the 2020 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred has decided that - rather than have umpires enforce a rule that has existed in some form for almost 120 years - he would rather introduce new rules to limit a manager's strategy options, in the hopes of shaving a few minutes off the time of games.

The Players Union did not formally agree to the three-batter minimum rule, but it will not challenge MLB's plan to implement it in 2020.

For 2019, the commercial time between innings will be reduced by five seconds for local broadcasts and 25 seconds for national broadcasts. (A local broadcast won by the home team in nine innings will be at least 80 seconds shorter. What will I do with all that extra time?)

The maximum number of mound visits per team per game will be reduced from six to five and the waiver trade period will be eliminated. The All-Star Game will continue its slide into irrelevance. Every extra inning will begin with a runner on second base and players who have left the game will be allowed to re-enter as runners. While this only applies to an exhibition game, it is troubling that it has been introduced at all.

Also in 2020, rosters from Opening Day through August 31 will be expanded to 26 players (27 for doubleheaders). From September 1 through the end of the regular season, rosters will be 28 players. The number of pitchers a team can have on its active roster will be capped at a to-be-determined number.

A team will designate each of its players as a pitcher or a position player before that player's first day on the active roster. The designations cannot be changed during the season. Position players will not be allowed to pitch except in the following scenarios: (a) extra innings, (b) any game in which his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters as a pitcher, and (c) if he is designated as a "Two-Way Player" (a player who has pitched at least 20 major league innings and has started at least 20 major league games as a position player or designated hitter (with at least three plate appearances in each of those games) in either the current or the prior season).

I do not have much to say about the big changes, except: I hate them, they are unnecessary, and I'm seriously wondering what year it will be when I say I am through with baseball.


Straddling the Border said...

The "three-batter" rule is as bad an idea as I've heard. I don't have much faith in baseball's leadership, so nothing awful they do to baseball will surprise me. But my sense on first reading this news today (after checking to see if I'd forgotten that it was April 1st) was that it's a negotiating position seeking to pressure the Players Association to agree to a pitch clock and whether or not it succeeds in doing that MLB will back off and not actually institute it. I guess I'm smart enough to never say never, but how about not in my lifetime. Maybe this is just wishful thinking. By the way, my 60th birthday is upcoming in May and I hope to live for a good long time.

betterthanthealternative said...

Left handed relievers are going to suddenly be more susceptible to stomach cramps than the general population.

FenFan said...

I'm definitely not a fan of the three-batter rule. If they are so concerned with multiple pitching changes in an inning slowing down the game, then why not keep the major league roster at the current 25-player maximum and limit the number of pitchers a team can carry to ten so that the bullpen isn't as deep?

From where did the rule about limiting the use of position players as pitchers derive? Has this been a problem? Checking BB-Ref... Out of 4862 games played last season, there were only 66 games in which a position player faced at least one batter. That's once every 74 games played, which is roughly 5 games every two weeks.(Fun fact: in an 18-5 blowout on 20 July in Chicago, the Cubs' last three pitchers -- Tommy La Stella, Victor Caratini, and Ian Happ -- were all normally position players who combined to face 15 batters. This was only instance where three players were used; there were seven other instances of at least two players being used.)

I lump these changes in the same mindset as the elimination of the traditional intentional walk in favor of just giving the batters the base without throwing a single pitch. Again, checking BB-Ref, the LEAGUE average the season before that rule was implemented (2016) was one EVERY FIVE GAMES PLAYED. Again, where did they see a savings in doing this?

It took me all of two minutes to research this. Seriously, does the league front office have anyone who actually looks at the statistics, or do they just pull random suggestions from a hat? Morons...

laura k said...

This whole thing is heartbreaking.

allan said...

It took me all of two minutes to research this. Seriously, does the league front office have anyone who actually looks at the statistics, or do they just pull random suggestions from a hat?

So once again - just like the hand-wringing over long extra-inning games (which are actually extremely rare) - they want to radically alter the basic foundations of the game to solve a problem that does not exist.

allan said...

The 66 games with position players was a crazy jump from any other year.
2017 was the first year the number was more than 30.
From the graph here, it was never more than 15 games before 2014.

johngoldfine said...

It's all pretty fucking depressing. I keep imagining the Commissioner at a hockey game and loving the idea of a team playing shorthanded, if the umpires toss a player. Power plays in baseball! Wicked exciting! Or why not go with two 60 minute periods or halves and after 120 minutes, game over and the team with the most points on the board (why bother calling them 'runs' and confusing people?) wins!

laura k said...