February 12, 2020

Three-Batter Minimum Rule (Which Will Not Shorten Game Times) Takes Effect March 12

Various rule changes for 2020 have been made official. You can click here to read about the changes to roster limits, adjustments to the injured list, and option periods for pitchers and two-way players.

One change had not been mentioned previously - and it's a doozy!

Managers will have only 20 seconds to decide whether they want to challenge a call instead of a leisurely 30 seconds. Whoa! ... Alex Cora challenged 33 calls last season. If this new rule had been in effect, it would have cut 330 seconds (5 minutes, 30 seconds) off the entire Red Sox season. That's an average time-savings per game of 2.04 seconds.

Any plans for what you're going to do with all that extra time?

But the absolute worst rule is the one that will force all pitchers to face at least three batters (or until the end of an inning) unless they are unable to continue because of illness or injury.

Back on January 2, I wrote:
The very thing [Commissioner Rob] Manfred wants to eliminate - relievers facing only one or two batters - has actually been decreasing in recent seasons. ...

Year     One BF    Two BF    Avg. Time of Game    Avg. Time of 9-Inning Game
2019      1100      1054           3:10                      3:05
2018      1145      1143           3:04                      3:00
2017      1119      1091           3:08                      3:05
2016      1182      1075           3:04                      3:00
2009      1118      1066           2:55                      2:51
1999       980       904           2:57                      2:53
1979       439       411           2:35                      2:31
1959       161       211           2:34                      2:31
[Using Baseball Reference's Play Index] I found no correlation between more one- and two-batter relief appearances and longer nine-inning games.

From 1999 to 2009, there were 300 more one- and two-batter appearances and the average game time increased by two minutes.

From 2017 to 2019, there were 56 fewer one- and two-batter appearances and the average game time also increased by two minutes.

From 2016 to 2018, there were 105 fewer one- and two-batter appearances but the average game time stayed the same.

From 1959 to 1979, the number of short relief appearances more than doubled (372 to 850), but the average game time stayed exactly the same.

From 2009 to 2019, there were 30 fewer one- and two-batter appearances (a statistically insignificant amount, one per 80 games)), but the average game time increased by 15 minutes.

It's a fact that games are taking longer to play, so something is causing that to happen. But there is no evidence that relief pitchers failing to face three batters is the cause. The facts show that fewer pitching changes has no effect one way or the other on the average length of a nine-inning game.

I suppose Manfred has to look like he's doing something about this "problem". But I'd rather his "make-work" efforts didn't destroy a key part of baseball's essential competitive structure for the last 150 years. Did MLB even bother to glance at some data before deciding to penalize strategy and innovation?

This stupid fucking worthless rule will starting in spring training (March 12). It should be confined to spring training.


FenFan said...

Almost every rule change that has been implemented has done NOTHING to speed up the game. Limiting the number of visits to the mound that doesn't result in a pitching change to six? Garbage. The automatic intentional walk with no pitches thrown? Pointless. ...and yet the length of the commercial breaks between innings hasn't changed; if nothing, it has increased. Shaving even 30 seconds off those breaks would shave nearly ten minutes per nine-inning game, which would have more impact than anything Manfred and his yes-men have prescribed.

Jim said...

And David Price will still take 25-30 seconds between pitches.