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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) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: injured list, rosters, rule changes, three-batter minimum, two-way players, video review

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   1. Kiko Sakata Posted: February 13, 2020 at 12:48 AM (#5924067)
Not in the excerpt (but in the article), they also cut the time a manager has to challenge a play from 30 seconds to 20 seconds. That one's a definite thumbs up.
   2. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: February 13, 2020 at 01:20 AM (#5924075)
As far as I'm concerned, there are only two steps to improving fan interest and reaching fans. 1. Enforce the rule for time between pitches (or add a pitch clock), and 2. fix the blackout restrictions. Pace of play improves, which in turn improves engagement, the games become more accessible, and this is all done without sacrificing media-based revenues. Everything else recently implemented in an attempt to better the game—from replay challenges to the latest rules which will put a pitcher on the 15-day IL if he leaves mid-inning with a blister—doesn't matter in comparison.

As an added bonus no one I've ever read seems to notice, point 1 above would also reduce the amount of time the bad announcers speak.

The ongoing failure to make legitimate changes to improve well-documented issues is the Bud Selig legacy. Once having an independent commissioner was removed, what we get are ineffectual changes which come from supposed leadership. I'd say the fact that Derek Jeter wasn't on one person's Hall of Fame ballot received more attention than the feckless and corrupt Selig being enshrined is testament to how extensively everyone has been duped—talk about missing the forest through the trees.
   3. redsock Posted: February 13, 2020 at 03:48 AM (#5924080)
they also cut the time a manager has to challenge a play from 30 seconds to 20 seconds

The Red Sox would have saved an average of 2.04 seconds per game last year.

There is no evidence that the 3-batter rule will do anything to game times (good or bad). Using BRef's Play Index, I found the following:

Year     One BF    Two BF    AvgTime of Game    AvgTime of 9-Inning Game
2019      1100      1054           3
:10                      3:05
2018      1145      1143           3
:04                      3:00
2017      1119      1091           3
:08                      3:05
2016      1182      1075           3
:04                      3:00
2009      1118      1066           2
:55                      2:51
1999       980       904           2
:57                      2:53
1979       439       411           2
:35                      2:31
1959       161       211           2
:34                      2:31 

From 1999 to 2009, there were 300 more one- and two-batter appearances and the average game time increased by two minutes.

From 2017 to 2019, there were 56 fewer one- and two-batter appearances and the average game time increased by two minutes.

From 2016 to 2018, there were 105 fewer one- and two-batter appearances but the average game time stayed the same.

From 1959 to 1979, the number of short relief appearances more than doubled (372 to 850), but the average game time stayed the same.

From 2009 to 2019, there were 30 fewer one- and two-batter appearances (a statistically insignificant amount, one per 80 games)), but the average game time increased by 15 minutes.

Games are certainly taking longer to play, so something is causing that to happen. But the facts show that fewer pitching changes has no effect one way or the other on the average length of a nine-inning game.

Manfred has to look like he's doing something about this "problem". But I'd rather his "make-work" efforts didn't destroy a key part of baseball's essential competitive structure for the last 150 years. Did MLB even bother to glance at some data before deciding to penalize strategy and innovation?
   4. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: February 13, 2020 at 04:29 AM (#5924082)
Baseball isn’t selling strategy. It’s selling entertainment.

The post-fifth-inning parade of interchangeable anonymous relievers may be effective strategy, but it is lousy entertainment.

When management discovers and adopts a strategy that is effective at helping win games, but makes the game palpably duller for fans to watch, that is exactly the situation that begs for the strategy to be outlawed by rule.
   5. bbmck Posted: February 13, 2020 at 04:45 AM (#5924084)
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.

2164 pitching appearances of two batters or fewer last year during the regular season, another 61 in the post season and Will Smith in the all-star game.

Assuming the second part is accurate and relevant it would imply that 0-1 batters, end inning and you start the following inning you are required to face 3 batters.
   6. Greg Pope Posted: February 13, 2020 at 08:37 AM (#5924094)
The Red Sox would have saved an average of 2.04 seconds per game last year.

Unless this leads to fewer challenges because they don't have time to review the replays.
   7. Greg Pope Posted: February 13, 2020 at 08:42 AM (#5924096)
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.


This is good, primarily because it only increases the pitcher limit by 1, to 14. So teams won't have 20-man pitching staffs in September.

The injured list and option recall minimum period for pitchers will increase from 10 days to 15, an effort to slow the use of relievers by teams who shuttle off pitchers between the majors and minors.


This will also help. I saw another article that said that the option period for pitchers is also increased to 15 days. MLB does seem to be trying to reduce the AAA shuttle.

However, as has been said many times here, the number one thing is to enforce the pitch clock. And they haven't done that.
   8. TJ Posted: February 13, 2020 at 09:00 AM (#5924102)
The rule as announced:

"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." (emphasis mine).

Hypothetical:
Let's say Generic Lefty Reliever Smith is brought in to face Lefty Hitting Jones. Smith walks Jones on four pitches. Up comes right handed power bat Williams. Jones calls out his manager and says his elbow hurts. Crew Chief Joe West says, "You're not hurt, snowflake. Shut up and pitch." The next pitch Smith throws results in a torn ligament and Tommy John surgery.


My question is, who does Smith sue?
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: February 13, 2020 at 09:04 AM (#5924104)
My question is, who does Smith sue?


The same guy he would sue now if the situation plays out during his warmup pitches and first batter, I presume.

   10. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: February 13, 2020 at 09:13 AM (#5924108)
Yeah, the better way to handle that would be a mandatory IL stint for any pitcher removed early. No player is likely to fake an injury to help the team under those circumstances.

As written, of course it would quickly become obvious if a team was faking injuries to end-run the rule regularly. But in the playoffs? Yeah, in a must-win playoff game, before long we’re guaranteed to see a lefty reliever suddenly struck with a sore elbow while getting out the lefty cleanup hitter that, gosh, requires his team to remove him and bring in a coincidentally righthanded reliever to pitch to the righthanded #5 hitter. We had no choice, you see, we have to protect our player’s health. He turned out to be fine this time, though. Whew!
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: February 13, 2020 at 10:09 AM (#5924135)
Yeah, the better way to handle that would be a mandatory IL stint for any pitcher removed early.


It should always be the rule that a pitcher who is removed from a game for injury should have a mandatory period of inactivity, whether it results in a full DL stint.
   12. Swoboda is freedom Posted: February 13, 2020 at 10:26 AM (#5924137)
The change I would most want for relievers is a time clock. You have 2 minutes to start pitching if a reliever is called in. 2 minutes from when the ball is returned to pitcher. If the manager wants to stroll out and chat, that eats into 2 minutes. The reliever better hustle in if he wants some warm ups on mound.
   13. bbmck Posted: February 13, 2020 at 03:12 PM (#5924255)
Smith should issue two no pitch intentional walks and then his team should protest the game.

Starting pitchers are required to issue the intentional walks before leaving according to that wording, 5 times in 2018 regular season and Wade Miley in the playoffs the starting pitcher did not face 3 batters. Only substitute pitchers are eligible for the injury exception if it even applied in those games.

The two way player designation:

2019: 460 players have at least 20 non-P starts with 3+ PA and the most IP is 5.1 by Stevie Wilkerson
2018: 455 players have at least 20 non-P starts with 3+ PA and only Shohei Ohtani has more than 3.1 IP

New market inefficiency, the Orioles can DH John Means 20 times and increase his trade value for the 2020 deadline and the 2021 season.
   14. . Posted: February 13, 2020 at 03:23 PM (#5924260)
As written, of course it would quickly become obvious if a team was faking injuries to end-run the rule regularly. But in the playoffs? Yeah, in a must-win playoff game, before long we’re guaranteed to see a lefty reliever suddenly struck with a sore elbow while getting out the lefty cleanup hitter that, gosh, requires his team to remove him and bring in a coincidentally righthanded reliever to pitch to the righthanded #5 hitter. We had no choice, you see, we have to protect our player’s health.


The Astros have already procured their stack of fake doctor's notes.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: February 13, 2020 at 03:28 PM (#5924262)
Yeah, the better way to handle that would be a mandatory IL stint for any pitcher removed early. No player is likely to fake an injury to help the team under those circumstances.


Except when pressured to. Which will happen. "We won't forget your sacrifice!"
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2020 at 03:34 PM (#5924268)
Except when pressured to. Which will happen. "We won't forget your sacrifice!"

Which is why you have to let it be known that the league will absolutely hammer teams to force guys to go on the DL for fake injuries.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2020 at 04:57 PM (#5924293)
This isn't a big issue, more a nice to have but ...

I'm fine with pulling Sept rosters down from 40 but I think 28 is too low .... or just plain odd. What is the point of adding just 2 roster slots? If that's all you're gonna do, just leave it at 26. It seems it would have been a chance to experiment with the notion of a taxi squad -- set Sept rosters at, say, 34 but the active roster for any Sept game is set at 22 with 9 pitchers (the current 26/13 minus the other 4 SPs ... and designate "emergency pitchers" if we're worried about extra-inning marathons).

The "issue" with 26/28-man limits in Sept is that there are two things that I think should be retained: the chance to debut young players or reward vet minor-leaguers and the chance for playoff teams (who clinch early) to rest their pitchers and set their rotations. An in-game limit keeps teams from adding huge numbers of relievers but would still allow them to add a few SPs who can grab spot starts or come in after the real SP has thrown his 2-3 innings to stay sharp. Some kid or vet minor-leaguer gets a chance.

I suppose they can still do this through options, etc. but that seems an unnecessary complication.

The post-fifth-inning parade of interchangeable anonymous relievers may be effective strategy, but it is lousy entertainment.

And this rule does nothing to change that. First, while many like to refer to the "parade" of relievers, the number of mid-inning changes has been pretty stable for the last 20 years or so and has actually been coming down. All this rule does is mean that "parade" will be 1, very occasionally 2, pitchers shorter once every 4-5 games.

But you're still gonna find one of this week's AAA guys coming on in the 6th and three guys who maybe throw 60 innings a year throwing innings 7-9. They'll still be every bit as anonymous as they currently are, they'll still be coming on in the 6th with regularity (there's absolutely nothing in the rule to reduce this since finishing the inning fulfills the obligation). You want to reduce the parade of nobodies, you need a rule that says the starting pitcher has to face at least 27 batters.

Note, total number of pitchers used per season will probably come down a bit and this will be celebrated -- but it will be due primarily to the reduction in the Sept roster limits not the 3-batter rule.
   18. bbmck Posted: February 13, 2020 at 05:47 PM (#5924310)
Starters facing 27+ batters:

1908-1945: 70.1 to 78.5% except 1914 48.1%, 1915 48.5% and 1918 80.6%
1946-1963: 60 to 69.8%
1964-1969: 55.7 to 59.8% except 1968 61.2%
1970-1978: 60.8 to 64.1% except 1977 58.2%
1979-2000: 50.7 to 59.5% except 1994 49.1%

2001-2005: 47.3, 46.1, 45.2, 46.3 and 48.2%
2006-2014: 44.9, 42.5, 39.8, 39.9, 44.9, 45.5, 40.2, 38.1 and 39.2%
2015-2019: 34.4, 28.9, 24.6, 19.6 and 16.4%
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2020 at 06:05 PM (#5924312)
I've opposed this rule plenty of times, it just doesn't fix much (talking about the 3 batter minimum or end of inning thing) The rule about roster size in September does actually do something, but I agree with Walt, it really doesn't do much. It's going to help fix the issue of mid inning pitching changes.... MUCH better than this stupid ass rule about facing three batters(which again doesn't do anything except in September) but then the roster expansion option has been eliminated. I've always pushed for a game roster being a different size than the active roster (like NHL) so I have no problem with 26/28 man rosters, but September call ups is a big deal to a lot of young players, and to eliminate that as an option is a bit mean spirited to be honest...

Now of course, since it is September, it's arguable that the traditional rules of call ups isn't in the cards, so what Walt talked about with a taxi squad, could realistically be a thing. In the normal months, when you call a player up, and send him down he has a period where he can't be called up, but in September, that isn't the case.... So this 28 man roster could be altered daily.... the problem I have with that, is then you have players who are daily having a massive pay change... financially it helps the clubs, but from a players point of view, this sucks, being on the big league roster pays more than not being on it....

The best way to fix this issue is to argue that EVERYONE on the 40 man roster, regardless of roster status, is considered a Major leaguer from September on for pay purposes.
   20. ReggieThomasLives Posted: February 13, 2020 at 06:37 PM (#5924318)

Games are certainly taking longer to play, so something is causing that to happen. But the facts show that fewer pitching changes has no effect one way or the other on the average length of a nine-inning game.


We don't know what is causing game times to increase in length, yet the facts are that fewer pitching changes has no effect?

If we don't know, maybe pitching changes is one of a half dozen effects causing longer games, so why not minimize them while we work on the other 5 effects?
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2020 at 07:39 PM (#5924326)
We don't know what is causing game times to increase in length, yet the facts are that fewer pitching changes has no effect?

If we don't know, maybe pitching changes is one of a half dozen effects causing longer games, so why not minimize them while we work on the other 5 effects?


Because the clear and obvious issue is time between pitches... it's not even particularly close. The time between pitches has gone up... that is not really up for debate, it's a matter of how much it's gone up.... with a 300 pitch game, a 3 second increase between pitches is 900 seconds, 15 minutes, and that is the conservative estimate of the increase in just the past 20 years... and of course the issue is... and has always been about pacing... a well paced 4 hour game is just as enjoyable, if not more so than a 2 and a half hour game... it's the lagging of action that is the issue.

The big blockbuster movies of the past few decades have had no problem with increasing playing time, while maintaining fan interest because they do well with pacing and keeping people locked into the event. Baseball (and even football) are failing at the pacing issue.
   22. Srul Itza Posted: February 13, 2020 at 08:03 PM (#5924332)
the clear and obvious issue is time between pitches.


Which is both the pitcher taking his time, and the batters stepping out.

Both need to be addressed.

Umpires used to be expected to move the games along. We rag on them all day long here, but it would be good to give both the authority, and the incentive, to push the games along.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2020 at 08:25 PM (#5924336)
Which is both the pitcher taking his time, and the batters stepping out.

Both need to be addressed.

Umpires used to be expected to move the games along. We rag on them all day long here, but it would be good to give both the authority, and the incentive, to push the games along.


Fully agree... a full throated defense of pacing (meaning time between pitches) is the biggest issue the game has right now when it comes to both pace of play, and time of game.... Give the umps full authority to enact the rules as written, and many of the complaints will disappear with just minimal rule changes so that morons can pretend it was an other issue... morons can love the 3 pitcher minimum, but it isn't going to make a rat's hair of a difference in pacing or time until they attack the bear in the room, which is average time per pitch... and again, this isn't even close. There is literally no bigger issue on pacing or time in game that this is not the primary issue.
   24. ReggieThomasLives Posted: February 13, 2020 at 08:33 PM (#5924337)
The big blockbuster movies of the past few decades have had no problem with increasing playing time, while maintaining fan interest because they do well with pacing and keeping people locked into the event. Baseball (and even football) are failing at the pacing issue.


I think it can be argued that the NFL has done even worse at the pacing issue, but has gotten bailed out by NFL RedZone and split screen broadcasts.

   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2020 at 09:21 PM (#5924344)
We don't know what is causing game times to increase in length, yet the facts are that fewer pitching changes has no effect?

If we don't know, maybe pitching changes is one of a half dozen effects causing longer games, so why not minimize them while we work on the other 5 effects?


We do know.

https://www.sbnation.com/a/mlb-2017-season-preview/game-length

It's time between pitches. It's worth 25 minute per game. With no loss of revenue.
   26. ReggieThomasLives Posted: February 14, 2020 at 12:49 AM (#5924368)
I can’t and won’t argue against time between pitches being a huge factor, but that’s 25 minutes out of an average 3 hour and 10 minute game. Baseball became the most popular sport when games averaged under 2 hours long, it’s lost that relative popularity as game length grew to 3 hours and beyond. There is more than time between pitches to address.
   27. cookiedabookie Posted: February 14, 2020 at 08:30 AM (#5924380)
Baseball became the most popular sport when games averaged under 2 hours long

There also wasn't the number of commercials back then that there are today
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2020 at 09:04 AM (#5924384)
I can’t and won’t argue against time between pitches being a huge factor, but that’s 25 minutes out of an average 3 hour and 10 minute game. Baseball became the most popular sport when games averaged under 2 hours long, it’s lost that relative popularity as game length grew to 3 hours and beyond. There is more than time between pitches to address.

Take 25 minutes off the 3:05 average, and that's 2:40. It's a huge improvement, and literally nothing is lost. Same amount of ads, same amount of action. You just get rid of the dicking around.

All the other changes I'd like to see (less TTO baseball, fewer RPs, etc.) have cost and benefits to the teams in trying to win, so they're going to be hard to do. The time between pitches is dead simple, and free.
   29. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: February 14, 2020 at 09:44 AM (#5924393)
Are there more foul balls today than 40 years ago?

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