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Three-batter Minimum Newsbeat

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Three Batter Minimum Rule’s Biggest Dilemma

The three-batter minimum rule is coming to a regular season game near you in just a couple weeks. The stated desire of the rule is to reduce those time-consuming and action-relieving breaks late in games as a parade of relievers come in to get just a couple of outs. (The rule, for those who need a refresher, requires pitchers to either face a minimum of three batters in an appearance or pitch to the end of a half-inning, with some exceptions allowed for injury and illness.) If pitchers are forced to stay in games, then we’ll end up with fewer pitching changes and fewer breaks. That’s the idea, anyway. Ben Clemens took a look back in December and found that the number of times the rule would have actually come into effect in 2019 was actually pretty minimal. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be an effect on strategy.

Over at The Athletic, Jayson Stark talked with multiple managers to get a handle on how much they’ll have to plan, and to figure out how the new rule could affect deployments when it comes to lineups, pinch hitters, and when to use relievers. It seems the rule will invite intentional walks and, as Buster Olney had previously mentioned, mid-batter pitching changes as pitching the last ball to a batter in a walk gets a pitcher credit for facing a batter. In some cases, this could even result in the return of pitchers using four actual pitches to intentionally walk a batter in order to set up the next reliever to come in before the intentional walk is complete.

While the resulting strategy will be much-discussed and analyzed in the context of a number of game-states, there is one situation that interests me the most: two outs, late in the game, with runners on base and a good lefty hitter coming to the plate.

Under the old rules, we might see a lefty come in to try to finish the inning; failing that, a righty could follow for the next batter, and try to finish things off. Now, if the lefty comes in and does his job against a lefty batter, the minimum is successfully skirted and the pitcher doesn’t have to start the next inning. However, if the lefty fails to retire the batter, he must stay in to face another hitter, presumably a righty in an even more difficult circumstance.

Should we really trust this commentary on strategy, given the history of managers on such matters?



QLE Posted: March 11, 2020 at 01:00 AM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: strategy, three-batter minimum

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Managers are struggling with the three-batter rule

The biggest rule change for the 2020 season is the three-batter rule. As in: any pitcher who comes into a game must face three batters — or get to the end of an inning, whichever comes first — before being lifted for a reliever. It’s a pretty radical rule, aimed at cutting down on multiple game-interrupting pitching changes in the middle of innings.

I don’t know if it’ll work to cut down on game times. Most research I’ve seen to that effect suggests it won’t have a big impact actually. A couple of minutes maybe. It will, however, have a big effect on strategy, however, with managers being forced to move away from one-batter relievers and specialists on which they have come to heavily rely.

Today Jayson Stark of The Athletic has an article up in which he talks to several managers and they speculate as to what kinds of old strategies will go away and what sorts of new strategies might develop in response to the rule. Among the things the managers say we’ll see: (a) a big increase in intentional walks, as an IBB counts as a batter faced; (b) stacked lineups with consecutive righties or lefties rather than alternate lefties and righties as they tend to do; and (c) the elimination of that thing where some managers hide a pitcher at first base or left field and then bring him back to the mound in order to face only same-sided batters.

Which, to me, is fine. And I think the managers’ stress about it all is overblown. Or, at the very least, something we shouldn’t care about all that much.

There are things to be said about this, some of which are rather impolite indeed…..


QLE Posted: March 07, 2020 at 12:47 AM | 28 comment(s)
  Beats: managers, three-batter minimum

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.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

MLB OKs 3-batter minimum among rule changes

NEW YORK—Major League Baseball went ahead with its planned rules changes for this season, including the requirement a pitcher must face at least three batters or end the half-inning, unless he is hurt.

The changes were agreed to by MLB and the players’ association last March 8, subject to the study of a joint committee. The three-batter minimum will start in spring training games on March 12.

There were 2,162 pitching appearances of three batters or fewer last year, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, but 1,471 of them finished with the end of a half-inning or a game.

The active roster limit will increase by one to 26 from Opening Day through Aug. 31, will drop from 40 to 28 through the end of the regular season and return to 26 for the postseason. Each team may have a maximum 13 pitchers through Aug. 31 and during the postseason, and 14 from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season.

So, how many of these changes do we hate already?


QLE Posted: February 13, 2020 at 12:28 AM | 29 comment(s)
  Beats: injured list, rosters, rule changes, three-batter minimum, two-way players, video review




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