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Jim Furtado
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September Callups Newsbeat

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Some of the New Roster Rules Are Garbage

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball made official a handful of rule changes that had been in the works for nearly a year. In case you missed it while following the latest twists and turns of the Astros’ sign-stealing saga or the excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting, here’s the full press release, which spares us from having to retype it:

...

The three-batter minimum rule — and the existential threat it poses to lefty specialists — has been the most discussed of these changes. Our own Ben Clemens illustrated that it won’t matter all that much, a conclusion supported by Sam Miller’s examination, while other analysis such as this article by Tom Verducci and this one by Cliff Corcoran suggest it could have a negative impact.

The changes to the injured list and the service time tradeoffs that come with the permanent 26th man and the limited September roster size can bear closer analysis, but the rules that have my attention today — and this should be no surprise if you’ve been reading my work here — are the ones concerning position players and two-way players. By themselves, they won’t amount to much, and while they do close the loopholes that come with the 13-pitcher limitations on the new 26-man rosters, those are some pretty narrow loopholes to begin with. What they really do is stamp out a bit of novelty, not that the sport needs further encroachment by the Fun Police.

Traditionally, a position player pitching appearance has been a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency desperation move (generally in extra innings) or a lighthearted farce that draws attention away from an otherwise unpleasant blowout. Through some combination of higher-scoring games, higher per-game totals of relievers, concerns about reliever workloads, the reduced stigma of this particular maneuver, and — a factor I had not previously considered, but one Craig Edwards brought to light — an increasing number of noncompetitive games caused by a lack of competitive balance — the rate of such appearances has accelerated in recent years. Depending upon how you feel about the trend, last year marked either the peak or the nadir of the position player pitching phenomenon:

Maybe it’s just me, but the changes to the September call-up rules strike me as being a far bigger issue than this.

 


 

 

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