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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) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: managers, three-batter minimum

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   1. John Northey Posted: March 07, 2020 at 01:23 AM (#5928663)
Does the 3 batter rule still apply if the pitcher is flip flopping in LF or something? The pitcher is still on the field technically. Oh for the days of Billy Martin when he'd push any rule to its limit in order to make things more interesting, well actually in order to win by any means necessary but it was entertaining.

I think the alternating R/L/R/L stuff will continue just to make it so bringing in a LH pitcher won't be especially valuable or to force them to intentionally walk more guys. I'm hoping it makes the games more fun by reducing mid-inning pitching changes which always screwed up the pace of a game imo.
   2. majorflaw Posted: March 07, 2020 at 05:02 AM (#5928673)
“Does the 3 batter rule still apply if the pitcher is flip flopping in LF or something?”

Sure looks that way:

“ . . . 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.”

Doesn’t appear to matter whether the pitcher is lifted to left field or the bench.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: March 07, 2020 at 07:18 AM (#5928674)
“Does the 3 batter rule still apply if the pitcher is flip flopping in LF or something?”


How frequently does that happen?



   4. Sunday silence Posted: March 07, 2020 at 08:13 AM (#5928676)
It happens very infrequently, Id guess like 10 times per season...

But go back to what the first two posters said: if that's so then why the hell would: "The elimination of that thing where somoe managers hide a P at first base...." happen?

THat makes no sense. If you can put your P at first base and the inn ends, well those situations might increase or at least stay the same. I dont get it.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: March 07, 2020 at 08:23 AM (#5928679)
It happens very infrequently, Id guess like 10 times per season...


I had no idea. I'm shocked it happens that often.

But go back to what the first two posters said: if that's so then why the hell would: "The elimination of that thing where somoe managers hide a P at first base...." happen?


I guess it depends on the interpretation of "lifted for a reliever". The pitcher in question isn't being "lifted" in the traditional sense. On the other hand, another "reliever" is coming into the game. So whether the important part is the first pitcher's continued presence in the game or the insertion of another relief pitcher would be the determining factor. Given the intent of the rule is to limit mid-inning pitching changes (as well as the contention of this piece), I'm guessing it's the latter.

   6. Adam Starblind Posted: March 07, 2020 at 08:23 AM (#5928680)

I think the alternating R/L/R/L stuff will continue just to make it so bringing in a LH pitcher won't be especially valuable or to force them to intentionally walk more guys. I'm hoping it makes the games more fun by reducing mid-inning pitching changes which always screwed up the pace of a game imo.



Agree on both counts. The suggestion that R/L/R/L will go away is backwards. And as you say, it's the pace of the game, not the length. You get to a climactic part of the game and you spend more of it watching insurance commercials than watching baseball.
   7. kcgard2 Posted: March 07, 2020 at 08:24 AM (#5928682)
How will the manager be allowed to stash a pitcher at 1B if he hasn't faced 3 hitters yet? And if he's already faced 3 hitters, there's only the old reasons left for trying that play, which happens almost never under the old rules. I think people are confused about the rule due to the wording? I feel certain the rule intends (and will be enforced as) a pitcher cannot be replaced on the mound by another pitcher until 3 batters faced or end of inning.
   8. greenback used to say live and let live Posted: March 07, 2020 at 08:27 AM (#5928683)
(b) stacked lineups with consecutive righties or lefties rather than alternate lefties and righties as they tend to do

Kinda interesting to suggest this would go away. Presumably the logic is not that I'm going to set my lineup with three straight LHB's because I know the opposing manager wants to bring in a random LOOGY who can't get out RHB's. Rather, I guess the point is that opposing managers won't have LOOGY's any more. But relievers will still have platoon splits, which are largely a function of handed-ness and repertoire (sliders are effective against same-side hitters, changeups/splitters are more effective opposite-side hitters). To put it another way, this makes right-handed two-out guys a lot more effective.
   9. majorflaw Posted: March 07, 2020 at 08:36 AM (#5928684)
“I guess the point is that opposing managers won't have LOOGY's any more.”

Don’t see how you can as one of the definitions of a LOOGY is “can’t get RH batters out to save his life. See Perez, Oliver.”
   10. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: March 07, 2020 at 09:19 AM (#5928687)
I tried to find recent examples of players flopping between LF/RF and P, by looking for guys who had more appearances than PA and who played in both LF and P or both RF and P since 2015. Obviously this misses players who were mainly starters in the NL, and might pick up someone serving as an emergency outfielder after an injury or something. Anyway, the list I came up with:

Jason Gurka (2015)
Leury Garcia (2015)
Cory Gearrin (2016)
Spencer Patton (2016)
Pedro Strop (2016)
Travis Wood (2016)
Steve Cishek (2018)
Brian Duensing (2018)
Michael Lornezen (2018, 2019)
   11. JJ1986 Posted: March 07, 2020 at 09:50 AM (#5928691)
That's a lot of Joe Maddon.
   12. bobm Posted: March 07, 2020 at 10:02 AM (#5928692)
From 1904 to 2019, A pitcher for his career, Played at least: P and RF, as Sub, sorted by date

                                                           
Rk             Player       Date  Tm Opp    Rslt PosSummary
1    Michael Lorenzen 2019-08-02 CIN ATL   W 5-2       RF P
2    Michael Lorenzen 2019-07-31 CIN PIT   W 4-1       RF P
3    Michael Lorenzen 2019-07-22 CIN MIL   W 6-5    RF LF P
4           Tony Sipp 2014-06-09 HOU ARI   W 4-3       RF P
5       Wesley Wright 2012-07-27 HOU PIT   L 5-6       RF P
6       Wesley Wright 2011-08-23 HOU COL   L 6-8       RF P
7        Todd Worrell 1989-04-11 STL CHC   L 4-5       RF P
8        Todd Worrell 1987-09-22 STL PHI   W 3-2       RF P
9      Keith Comstock 1987-06-17 SFG ATL   L 1-6       RF P
10       Jesse Orosco 1986-07-22 NYM CIN   W 6-3       RF P
11     Roger McDowell 1986-07-22 NYM CIN   W 6-3    RF LF P
12       Todd Worrell 1986-06-27 STL PHI   L 1-2       RF P
13       Todd Worrell 1986-06-24 STL PIT   W 5-2       RF P
14    Bullet Joe Bush 1925-06-04 SLB CLE L 10-11    PH RF P
15     Clark Griffith 1913-10-04 WSH BOS  W 10-9    CF RF P
16         Tom Hughes 1909-05-13 WSH CHW   T 1-1       RF P


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/7/2020.
   13. bobm Posted: March 07, 2020 at 10:03 AM (#5928693)
From 1904 to 2019, A pitcher for his career, Played at least: P and LF, as Sub, sorted by most recent date

                                                              
Rk             Player          Date  Tm Opp    Rslt PosSummary
1    Michael Lorenzen    2019-07-22 CIN MIL   W 6-5    RF LF P
2    Michael Lorenzen    2019-06-02 CIN WSN   L 1-4       LF P
3      Brian Duensing    2018-06-13 CHC MIL   L 0-1       LF P
4        Steve Cishek    2018-06-13 CHC MIL   L 0-1       LF P
5        Cory Gearrin    2016-09-09 SFG ARI   W 7-6       LF P
6         Travis Wood    2016-07-31 CHC SEA   W 7-6       LF P
7      Spencer Patton    2016-06-28 CHC CIN   W 7-2       LF P
8         Travis Wood    2016-06-28 CHC CIN   W 7-2       LF P
9           Tony Sipp    2014-06-15 HOU TBR   L 3-4       LF P
10      Sean Marshall 2009-07-12(2) CHC STL   L 2-4       LF P
11        Chris Resop    2008-04-03 ATL PIT   L 3-4       LF P
12      Chuck McElroy    1999-08-08 NYM LAD  L 3-14       LF P
13        Jeff Nelson    1993-07-15 SEA BOS   W 3-2       LF P
14     Roger McDowell    1991-10-01 LAD SDP   W 3-1       LF P
15      Les Lancaster 1990-06-13(1) CHC NYM L 10-15       LF P
16        Jeff Dedmon    1986-10-01 ATL CIN   L 5-6       LF P
17     Roger McDowell    1986-07-22 NYM CIN   W 6-3    RF LF P
18       Kent Tekulve 1979-09-01(1) PIT SFG   W 5-3       LF P
19      Wayne Granger    1970-05-01 CIN PIT   W 6-4       LF P
20          Al McBean    1965-08-18 PIT HOU   W 8-7       LF P
21        Ruben Gomez 1957-08-04(1) NYG CIN   W 7-6       LF P
22   Ralph Winegarner 1935-07-24(2) CLE WSH  W 13-8       LF P


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/7/2020.
   14. bobm Posted: March 07, 2020 at 10:08 AM (#5928694)
From 1904 to 2019, A pitcher for his career, Played at least: P and CF, as Sub, sorted by most recent date

                                                             
Rk             Player          Date  Tm Opp   Rslt PosSummary
1    Michael Lorenzen    2019-09-17 CIN CHC  W 4-2       CF P
2    Michael Lorenzen    2019-09-13 CIN ARI  W 4-3       CF P
3    Michael Lorenzen    2019-09-04 CIN PHI  W 8-5       CF P
4    Michael Lorenzen    2019-07-17 CIN CHC  L 2-5       CF P
5        Bobby Shantz 1958-09-28(2) NYY BAL  W 6-3       CF P
6       Ownie Carroll 1925-10-04(2) DET SLB W 11-6       CF P
7      Walter Johnson 1918-09-02(2) WSH PHA  W 8-3       CF P
8      Clark Griffith    1913-10-04 WSH BOS W 10-9    CF RF P
9          Tom Fisher    1904-08-28 BSN CIN L 6-19       CF P


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/7/2020.
   15. bobm Posted: March 07, 2020 at 10:10 AM (#5928695)
I know there are duplicates on this list, and you would have to inspect the box scores to verify if these pitchers did switch back and forth. These lists provide an "upper bound" to the number of such appearances, though. They are rare.

The most famous example is the Mets game of 7/22/86 in which Orosco and McDowell both switched, based on handedness of the batter.
   16. Sunday silence Posted: March 07, 2020 at 02:43 PM (#5928736)
[your ad here]
   17. bbmck Posted: March 07, 2020 at 02:52 PM (#5928737)
All the articles posted or at least dated after the MLB press release:

Cannot be pulled after batter, end of an inning, batter:

usatoday: The only way a pitcher can be taken out in the middle of an inning without facing at least three batters is in case of an injury, which the umpire crew chief would have to confirm.
confirm is a terrible word choice

mlb.com: All pitchers -- both starters and relievers -- now have to face at least three batters (or pitch until the inning is over) before they come out of a game. The only exception is an injury or illness that prevents the pitcher from being able to finish his three batters.
"an" inning would be a different rule interpretation

Associated Press: 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.

Can be pulled after batter, end of an inning, batter:

MLB press release: 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.
"or until the offensive team is put out" is a separate criteria that once reached the pitcher can be replaced at any time. Judgment is way different from confirm.

espn: Pitchers will be required to either face a minimum of three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions to be made in case of injury or illness.
"a" half-inning

washingtonpost: There will be two exceptions to the three-batter minimum rule: A pitcher may be removed after facing fewer than three batters if he reached the end of a half-inning, and umpires will have discretion to waive the rule in the event of an injury.
Discretion is a precise word choice.

Multiple sites use the press release verbatim or link to it rather than expecting the writer to understand the rule.
   18. Sunday silence Posted: March 07, 2020 at 02:52 PM (#5928738)
I feel certain the rule intends (and will be enforced as) a pitcher cannot be replaced on the mound by another pitcher until 3 batters faced or end of inning.


I think you're right. As no.5 points out it depends on what "lifted" means.

I guess it depends on the interpretation of "lifted for a reliever". The pitcher in question isn't being "lifted" in the traditional sense. On the other hand, another "reliever" is coming into the game. So whether the important part is the first pitcher's continued presence in the game or the insertion of another relief pitcher would be the determining factor.


I think you nailed the issue here SoSH. Is it possible that a broad word like "lifted" was used to cover any situation where the pitcher leaves the mound (other than injury)? So that as kcgard says: you cant go to 1b or RF until you've faced 3 batters.

If the rule said "replaced" then one can argue that he's not being replaced in the lineup, he's a P going to LF he's still in the lineup he's not replaced. So they choose a term like Lifted in order to cover both replacement in the lineup and replaced at the position.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: March 07, 2020 at 04:29 PM (#5928755)
The MLB.com glossary states that the pitcher must FACE a min of 3 batters or PITCH to the end of a half-inning.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: March 07, 2020 at 04:39 PM (#5928757)
And on possible LRL reduction ... the original reason was to prevvent the opps from bringing in the LHP to fact two LHB then get lifted. IF they wanted one LHP to get the platoon advantage twice, they had to lose that advantage once .... alternatively they would have to churn through 3 pitchers. With the new rule, you can go LLR to gain an advantage against the SP while later in the game the LHP still has to face the RHB ... but also, you can PH for one or both of the LHBs without concern for the opps lifting the reliever.

That's all pretty trivial and, if you could re-arrange mid-game, you'd probably prefer LRL over LLR late in the game but it may now be the case that the advantage of LLR against the RHS outweighs the disadvantages of LLR later.

Anyway, at least until somebody figures out what's optimal, I suspect we'll see teams go LLRLLR in their top 6 against RHS when possible. Which could lead to more openers ... which might lead back to LRLRLR.
   21. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 07, 2020 at 05:39 PM (#5928766)
I guess it depends on the interpretation of "lifted for a reliever". The pitcher in question isn't being "lifted" in the traditional sense. On the other hand, another "reliever" is coming into the game. So whether the important part is the first pitcher's continued presence in the game or the insertion of another relief pitcher would be the determining factor.


Don't forget that the second reliever is required to face three batters as well. So even if you interpret the rule that the reliever simply has to be on the field for three batters, you've got one of those pitchers in left field for at least three hitters.

My guess is that the three-batter rule has killed off the strategy of sending a pitcher to another position - which, contrary to what Sunday Silence says, has never happened more than a couple of times per season, and usually happens zero times.
   22. bbmck Posted: March 07, 2020 at 06:17 PM (#5928769)
The three-batter rule might create the strategy of sending a pitcher to another position.

Begin the inning with LOOGY on mound and ROOGY in LF, if there are no restrictions on changing positions other than the position player + Ohtani rule you then have your match ups and if you can develop a strong pairing who can combine for multiple innings and play adequate LF you have a viable strategy. The reliever on the mound when the inning ends can definitely be freely substituted once the next inning begins, the opposing team can try to strand the reliever in LF with pinch hitters but pretty much only the Dodgers, Orioles and Marlins can swap in multiple players without significantly affecting their chances of winning the game.

If the rule doesn't allow the pitcher to move to LF before facing 3 batters or ending an inning is unclear. No media organization seems capable of providing detailed and accurate analysis of the rule, half of them fail on even accurately conveying the basics.
   23. SoSH U at work Posted: March 07, 2020 at 06:28 PM (#5928773)
Begin the inning with LOOGY on mound and ROOGY in LF, if there are no restrictions on changing positions other than the position player + Ohtani rule you then have your match ups and if you can develop a strong pairing who can combine for multiple innings and play adequate LF you have a viable strategy.


If teams really determined this was a great strategy, why wouldn't we have seen this before the rule change?

   24. Adam Starblind Posted: March 07, 2020 at 06:34 PM (#5928775)
If they do, I will scream.
   25. bbmck Posted: March 07, 2020 at 06:48 PM (#5928776)
Because before the three batter rule it was considered inferior to the replace the pitcher with another pitcher strategy.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: March 07, 2020 at 07:13 PM (#5928777)

Because before the three batter rule it was considered inferior to the replace the pitcher with another pitcher strategy.


There's no way that teams didn't use this before because it was considered inferior to continually replacing pitchers to get the platoon advantage but now suddenly see this as a viable strategy.

   27. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 07, 2020 at 09:46 PM (#5928782)
If the rule doesn't allow the pitcher to move to LF before facing 3 batters or ending an inning is unclear.

I would expect this ambiguity to last up to the point that the first manager actually tries this in game. After that, I would expect (hope) MLB to put a stop to it very quickly.
   28. Walt Davis Posted: March 07, 2020 at 10:59 PM (#5928790)
I really don't know why people think this is going to be confusing. This is the current text of rule 5.10(g):

(g) If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the
batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is
put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put
out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness
which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for
further play as a pitcher.


The new rule simply requires replacing 'the batter then at bat ...' with something like 'the next three batters due to bat ...' or 'the batter then at bat and the next two batters ...' (If the 2020 version of the rulebook has been released, it's not linked at mlb.com yet.) Or just 'shall pitch until the third batter ... is put out or reaches base ..." or "shall pitch until the completion of the next three plate appearances ..."

Note that this feared loophole doesn't exist in the current rule. The reliever has to complete one batter (or other end of inning). The manager can't have him throw one pitch then bring in a new reliever while sending this guy out to LF, promising that the original reliever will return to the mound for his required batter at some later point. All you need to do is change "one" to "three" and there's still no loophole. MLB would have to purposely create the loophole which clearly they are not going to do.

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