By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Major League Baseball has announced its rule changes for the 2020 season, with a heavy focus on limiting pitching changes to speed up the game.
The biggest change is the new "Three-Batter Minimum" rule, that will force all pitchers to face at least three hitters or finish an inning before they can be removed from a game. While this will certainly limit mid-inning pitching changes to speed the game up, it essentially eliminates the 'lefty specialist' role and removes a huge element of strategy late in close games. Will fans accept MLB taking that away?
When it comes to pitching changes and pace of play, the issue wasn't as much the frequency but how long each change takes. Perhaps a better way to address the issue would be to limit the amount of time pitchers have when coming into a game mid-inning. Instead of having guys warm up on the mound, tell teams to have them ready before they come in. Allow new pitchers just two or three throws from the mound to get the feel of things, then get the game going again. No need for a commercial break.
Rule changes for the 2020 season were announced today by @MLB.
Decreasing September roster size from 40 to 28 is a much more effective way to speed up games, even if it only is for one month. In the past, teams could have 20 or more arms in their bullpen and could use seven to eight guys a night. By limiting teams to 14 pitchers in September, the league will successfully speed up games at the end of the year.
One non-pitching related rule to help with pace of play was added as well. Managers will now have 20 seconds to decide if they want to challenge a play, down from 30 seconds in previous years. While that does help move things along, will it be relevant enough to improve the overall speed of the game? Challenges only occur in about 30 percent of MLB games, which means this rule saves each team about 470 seconds over the course of the season.
Notably absent from the list of changes is a pitch clock. It's a system that has been tested at lower levels of baseball and could go a long way in making the game more watchable to a younger generation of fans. However, current players have been strongly against it, and with the current CBA expiring after next season (2021), the league appears to think now isn't the time to pick that fight.
Other rule changes include expanding active rosters from 25 to 26 players, limiting when position players are allowed to pitch, a "two-way player" designation for players who both hit and pitch (eg. Shohei Ohtani), and tweaks to the injured list.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].