So Baseball Is Making Rule Changes . . . What's Your Opinion? . . . Here's Mine
Okay, it's official. Pitchers have to face a minimum three batters (unless they record the final out of an inning) this season, among other things. Here's a look at what is changing in 2020 with an opinion thrown in on each rule change:
- Three-Batter Minimum: The Official Baseball Rules have been amended to require the starting or any relief pitcher to pitch to a minimum of three batters, including the batter then at bat (or any substitute batter), until such batters are put out or reach base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire crew chief’s judgment, incapacitates him from further play as a pitcher. The three-batter minimum will become effective in 2020 Spring Training beginning on Thursday, March 12th.
- Tracy's Take: Want to make the rule fair? Then the manager of the team that is hitting should not be allowed to pinch hit for the second and third batter the pitcher will face. Why give the offensive team the advantage of being able to shuffle it's lineup but the team in the field can not respond?
- Active Roster Limits:
- Rosters through August 31st and Postseason: Active Roster limits from Opening Day through August 31st and including Postseason games shall be increased from 25 to 26. In addition, Clubs will be permitted to carry a maximum of 13 pitchers from Opening Day through August 31st(plus Postseason games).
- Tracy's Take: The key to this rule is what happens in September. By expanding the regular-season roster to 26, it provides an assurance of total service time remaining similar to what it was in the past with the excessive number of players on the bench.
- September Rosters: From September 1st through the end of the Championship Season (including any tiebreaker games), all Clubs must carry 28 players on the Active Roster. In addition, Clubs will be permitted to carry a maximum of 14 pitchers during this period.
- Tracy's Take: It is about time. September had turned into a marathon of players from excessive rosters. In arguably the most significant month of a baseball season, when the pennant races are of utmost interest, baseball has for years allowed up to 40 players on an active roster, changing the way the game is played from the first five months of the season because of the excessive moves.
- Two-Way Player Designation: Players who qualify as “Two-Way Players” may appear as pitchers during a game without counting toward a Clubs’ pitcher limitations. A player will qualify as a “Two-Way Player” only if he accrues both: (i) at least 20 Major League innings pitched; and (ii) at least 20 Major League games started (as a position player or designated hitter) with at least three plate appearances in each of those games, in either the current Championship Season or the prior Championship Season (for 2020 only, this will include 2019 as well as 2018). The Club must designate that player as a “Two-Way Player” in advance of that game. Once a Club designates a qualified “Two-Way Player” that designation will remain in effect, and cannot change, for the remainder of that Championship Season and Postseason.
- Tracy's Take: It's a start, but the next rule shows it's more about much adieu about nothing.
- Position Players Pitching: Any player may appear as a pitcher following the 9th inning of an extra inning game, or in any game in which his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when the player enters as a pitcher.
- Tracy's Take: Yawn. Position players have traditionally been used in blowouts to save a bullpen. Next question is if a team is down by 10 runs in the third inning, and brings in a position player to pitch, but it rallies to pull within four runs does it have to take the position player out and bring in a real pitcher?
- Extra Player Rule: The previous “26th player rule” will be replaced with the “27th player rule” for all applicable Championship Season games prior to September 1st. The 27th player shall not count toward any pitcher roster limits described above. Thus, a Club may designate 14 pitchers in games under circumstances where the Major League Rules would permit a 27th Active player.
- Tracy's Take: Just an adjustment necessary because of the expansion of the roster to 26 players.
- __Injured List Reinstatements and Option Period for Pitchers:__Clubs may not reinstate pitchers or Two-Way Players from the Injured List until 15 days have elapsed from the date of the initial placement for such injury – an increase from 10 days. In addition, the option period for pitchers will be lengthened from 10 days to 15 days.
- Tracy's Take: In other words, make sure a pitcher is really injured? Let's call this the Dodgers rule. The Boys in Blue exposed how silly the 10-day IL for pitchers was with the way they would juggle their roster.
- Reduction in Challenge Time: Managers will now have up to 20 seconds to challenge a play instead of 30.
- Tracy's Take: They didn't encore the 30-second rule, will MLB enforce the 20-second rule? Why not simplify it, have the team be required to challenge immediately. Do away with the guy in the clubhouse watching on a camera (and possibly passing along signs). There's enough idle time without creating rules to encourage it. But please, at least enforce the 20-second rule.