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Friday, January 15, 2021

MLB rule changes: League still discussing universal DH and expanded playoffs for 2021 season

Major League Baseball, fearing that the pandemic could create havoc with their scheduling once again, is proposing the return of seven-inning doubleheaders and extra-inning games beginning with a runner on second base, two persons with knowledge of their discussions told USA TODAY Sports.

The persons were unauthorized to publicly discuss MLB’s plan because of the on-going negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which must approve the rule changes.

Yet, the rules that were implemented for the first time in 2020 during the 60-game shortened season, designed primarily to limit the length of games during the pandemic, were widely embraced by the players, with MLB managers advocating for the rules to return.

“Change is abundant now,’’ Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin said last month, “in every walk of life. And if you don’t embrace it, you get stuck in the mud.’’

While the union is expected to approve the rule changes for the 2021 season, the two sides still have not determined whether there will be a universal DH or an expanded postseason with the rosters remaining at 26 players.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 15, 2021 at 10:58 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: designated hitter, expanded playoffs

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   1. Snowboy Posted: January 17, 2021 at 02:40 PM (#6000188)
From the article:
Players and agents surveyed in the past week have made it abundantly clear they want a universal DH.

Most baseball executives still believe there will be a universal DH this season

“Both from a Mets standpoint and from a general baseball standpoint,’’ Mets president Sandy Alderson recently said in a conference call, “having a DH in the National League is a good thing. The fact is, pitchers can’t even bunt anymore.


And here I thought my favourite niece getting engaged was the only good news to come out of 2020.

Hey, I grew up as a traditionalist. My first team was the Expos, and even though I started to follow the AL more when the Blue Jays came along, I still liked the old rules: the idea that pitchers were players, the managerial strategy that involved a double lineup switch.
My parents sold their house this summer, and in the maelstrom I found my July 1983 copy of SPORT magazine with Reggie Jackson on the cover Ban the DH

But times have changed. Pitchers can't hit anymore. Like Sandy says, they can't even bunt. Even if they wanted to, they're not given a chance or any training. At the high school and college level, there is a DH (noting that some pitchers at young ages are good enough to hit for themselves, and do) and as an institution MLB discourages pitcher hitting, with all of its affiliates in the Rookie and Single-A leagues using the DH. Affiliates of NL teams at the AA and AAA level do not use a DH, but when they play NLvsNL they can mutually agree to use a DH, and sometimes do. Plus good luck if you're a pitcher in an AL organization and get moved to an NL team, because the Angels spent more on finger tape for Kendry Morales than they ever do developing pitcher hitting.

There are the occasional moments of joy like Bumgarner, Greinke, and Lorenzen. But they are so few and far between that they are basically statistically irrelevant. Blame 2020 if you want, but it seems like pitcher hitting may have come to an end.
And I'm okay with that.
   2. rr doesn't talk to pawns Posted: January 17, 2021 at 02:57 PM (#6000192)
I agree with Snowboy. I grew up as a NL guy and never liked the DH, but yes: times have changed and the way the game is played and the way teams are scheduled has as well. Put the DH in the NL.

I am however 100% opposed to expanding the playoffs, and I am also 100% certain that it will happen.
   3. JJ1986 Posted: January 17, 2021 at 03:11 PM (#6000194)
If they have to expand the playoffs, please expand to 16 teams. 14 or 16 is bad for the regular season, but giving #1 overall seeds a week off is horrible and the only reason to do it is to copy the NFL.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: January 17, 2021 at 03:41 PM (#6000196)
I grew up an AL fan. If you're going to have homogeneity, which you really don't have to have, get rid of the damn thing.
   5. Ron J Posted: January 17, 2021 at 03:45 PM (#6000197)
#3 So you don't support the new four downs proposal?
   6. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 17, 2021 at 03:52 PM (#6000198)
I don’t have strong feelings about the DH. I do not want expanded playoffs.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: January 17, 2021 at 03:57 PM (#6000199)
The nice thing about My Man Fred is he makes MLB cord cutting so easy.
   8. cookiedabookie Posted: January 17, 2021 at 04:35 PM (#6000209)
They should expand to 12 teams per league in the playoffs. Top two seeds get a buy for the first round, and home field advantage in the second round. Third and fourth seeds get home field in the wildcard round, and only need to win one game. Fifth and sixth seeds need to win two games. This incentivizes every spot in the playoffs.

Yes to the universal DH. No to the ghost runner rule and the seven inning double headers. Although I won't fight as much on the double header rule.
   9. Howie Menckel Posted: January 17, 2021 at 05:13 PM (#6000212)
They should expand to 12 teams per league in the playoffs. Top two seeds get a buy for the first round, and home field advantage in the second round.

it's not so long ago when NCAA officials seriously discussed expanding March Madness from 64 teams to 256 (which is around how many D-I teams there were then; well over 300 now).

in one extra weekend of play, you go from 256 to 128 to 64 with just two-game sets.
   10. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: January 17, 2021 at 07:57 PM (#6000223)
The good news is that there's plenty of recordings of pre-2020 NL games, and even some pre-1973 AL games. So even if this goes through, you can still watch baseball if you want to.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: January 17, 2021 at 08:22 PM (#6000225)
it's not so long ago when NCAA officials seriously discussed expanding March Madness from 64 teams to 256 (which is around how many D-I teams there were then; well over 300 now).

in one extra weekend of play, you go from 256 to 128 to 64 with just two-game sets.


As some noted at the time, this made perfect sense as long as you got rid of conference tournies. Nearly every conference played a tourney the weekend before the NCAAs (I assume this is still true) and any team that won their conference tourney got a trip. So effectively you already had (still have) a NCAA tourney where every team is in but, for no good reason, some teams get the advantage of a (partial) double elimination and others (including good teams that win their conference tournament) don't. Just make the first two rounds (or however many to get to 64) true regionals then re-seed.

The only "logical" reason not to do that is that conferences make good money selling their tourney broadcast rights (plus tix, etc.) so the NCAA would have to turn that revenue over.
   12. manchestermets Posted: January 18, 2021 at 06:40 AM (#6000252)
“Both from a Mets standpoint and from a general baseball standpoint,’’ Mets president Sandy Alderson recently said in a conference call, “having a DH in the National League is a good thing. The fact is, pitchers can’t even bunt anymore.


I wish people wouldn't say things like this as if "pitchers can't even bunt anymore" is a law of nature. If they can't bunt anymore, Mr President, it's because teams including yours aren't coaching them to.
   13. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 18, 2021 at 11:42 AM (#6000265)
I could live with the 7-inning doubleheaders, if they'd actually schedule a dozen or so single admission doubleheaders per team. Fat chance of that ever happening.

As for playoffs, I like the pre-2020 version the best, although I'd make the WC 2 of 3, with the top seed getting all the home games.
   14. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 18, 2021 at 11:46 AM (#6000267)
I wish people wouldn't say things like this as if "pitchers can't even bunt anymore" is a law of nature. If they can't bunt anymore, Mr President, it's because teams including yours aren't coaching them to.

Well, yes. But shouldn't 48 years of experience be enough to convince you that they're never going to be taught, and that therefore there's no point in having pitchers bat other than tradition?

That said, since I don't pay much attention to the NL, if they want to keep out the DH, that's fine with me.
   15. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 18, 2021 at 11:48 AM (#6000268)
####, they're going to take away baseball for another season, and probably permanently, aren't they?

Well, I'll always have 2016 I guess.
   16. Ron J Posted: January 18, 2021 at 11:58 AM (#6000271)
#14 But they couldn't hit in 1972 either. I mean it's gone downhill from where it was in 1972, but baseball long ago stopped selecting pitchers for batting talent.

If pitchers today could hit as well as they did in 1974 you're probably looking at two runs a year per NL team.
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: January 18, 2021 at 12:02 PM (#6000273)
The fact that their hitting has declined further doesn't move me. It just makes the times they do something productive more meaningful and surprising.

And they may not bunt well, but they're still one of the only ones who do bunt. I don't want the bunt to disappear.
   18. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: January 18, 2021 at 03:38 PM (#6000314)
single admission doubleheaders


Yeah, single admission sounds unlikely. But if they're going to go to seven inning double headers once we've got fans back in the stadium, are they at least going to have the decency to charge 7/9ths the price of admission?
   19. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 18, 2021 at 04:04 PM (#6000319)
One of the misconceptions is that the DH has hindered modern pitchers from hitting well, but it's a 100 year trend. The problem is not offensive, with the pitchers hitting poorly. It on the defensive side, with pitchers being so dominant there. No offensive fix is going to change things much.

So, the fix: when the pitcher comes to bat, one of the non-pitching defenders comes to the mound, with the pitcher replacing him in the field. When the pitcher is retired or reaches base, they switch back.
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 18, 2021 at 04:13 PM (#6000322)
So, the fix: when the pitcher comes to bat, one of the non-pitching defenders comes to the mound, with the pitcher replacing him in the field. When the pitcher is retired or reaches base, they switch back.
Ha - I actually kind of like this idea.
   21. Ron J Posted: January 18, 2021 at 06:00 PM (#6000346)
#19 Right. As pitchers became more and more power oriented the tougher it became for guys who only dabble in batting to hit them. There's been a very clear trend of pitchers declining against the league going way back. Each decade the pitchers (as a group) became a little worse. From about a 35 OPS+ in 1919 to an 11 in 1972.

And you can tell how highly MLB values pitcher's batting from the number of good hitting pitchers who ended up in a DH league.
   22. flournoy Posted: January 18, 2021 at 08:10 PM (#6000356)
I wish people wouldn't say things like this as if "pitchers can't even bunt anymore" is a law of nature. If they can't bunt anymore, Mr President, it's because teams including yours aren't coaching them to.


This echoes when I often see the decision makers saying things like, "It's inevitable that we'll eventually wind up doing such-and-such." As though their decision reflect some cosmic force fated to occur, rather than taking responsibility for their choices.
   23. Ron J Posted: January 18, 2021 at 08:44 PM (#6000363)
#22 The counter here is that there's no evidence that you can teach somebody to hit at the major league level.

Bunt? Maybe. But I don't think you should assume that you can teach somebody at the major league level. Ever hit against a batting machine set at major league batting practice? I have. It's tough to even make contact. And that's BP. And there's a non-zero chance of somebody hurting themselves in an effort to make themselves slightly less inadequate in something you honestly don't care about -- you'll hit for them if the AB is that important (now more than ever)

I recall one team making a serious effort here. For a fairly long period the Reds did not permit their minor league teams to use the DH -- presumably on the theory that this would pay off with better hitting pitchers in the majors. Didn't happen. It's not important enough to the players and nobody breaks a tie for a roster spot on whether one pitcher's a better hitter. So if they're going to spend any time working on something it'll be their pitching.
   24. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: January 18, 2021 at 09:25 PM (#6000374)
Fundamentally, the problem is that the pitcher faces 9 batters, but is only one of the batters on his team. So any time/effort that he spends working on hitting has got to pay off at least 9x as much as spending that time/effort on pitching would, in order to make it rational for him to spend his time working on hitting. Maybe there's some low-hanging fruit around that clears that bar (if you'll let me mix some metaphors there), like maybe dropping a few bunts in spring training, but it's hard to imagine that there's much that would make that much of a difference.

This has been litigated to death, but the real reason to have pitchers hit doesn't have anything to do with strategy or anything like that. It's that there's a game called 'baseball', and a part of that game is that everybody (except Herb Washington) plays both offense and defense.
   25. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 18, 2021 at 10:45 PM (#6000393)
The counter here is that there's no evidence that you can teach somebody to hit at the major league level.


Some pitchers hit better than others, obviously. You just need to tweak the incentives so that the better hitters get priority in major-league rotations.

My simple proposal: Only players who currently have a BA above .150 may take the mound. If your BA falls below that, you can play a position, or pinch-hit, until your BA gets above the mark, but no pitching whatsoever.
   26. manchestermets Posted: January 19, 2021 at 05:50 AM (#6000445)
#22 The counter here is that there's no evidence that you can teach somebody to hit at the major league level.


So if we accept Alderson's hypothesis, and it isn't down to coaching, what is the reason that pitchers can't bunt "any more"? Something must have changed somewhere? Is it maybe that in the past assessment of pitching prospects to some extent incorporated consideration of their hitting ability, and now it doesn't? I can't think of any other reasons beyond the law of nature thing.
   27. Ron J Posted: January 19, 2021 at 07:12 AM (#6000448)
#26 It's probably down to specializing early.

Probably a secondary issue is that it's less common to pitch to contact. It's got to be a lot easier to put a bat on a ball when the pitcher kind of agrees that a ball in play is a good outcome.
   28. Rally Posted: January 19, 2021 at 09:02 AM (#6000466)
The counter here is that there's no evidence that you can teach somebody to hit at the major league level.


To a degree, you can. You can't turn someone into Juan Soto at the major league level, but it is possible to turn a good athlete from hopeless at the plate to "no worse than most other pitchers."

Take Jon Lester. Batting just one or two interleague games a year, he was 0 for 36 career while employed by AL teams. Then he signed with the Cubs and his 0-fer streak went to 0 for 66. But after a little experience he was about an average hitting pitcher. From 2017-19 he hit .149, and even homered once each season.

So if we accept Alderson's hypothesis, and it isn't down to coaching, what is the reason that pitchers can't bunt "any more"? Something must have changed somewhere? Is it maybe that in the past assessment of pitching prospects to some extent incorporated consideration of their hitting ability, and now it doesn't? I can't think of any other reasons beyond the law of nature thing.


2019 pitchers: 4490 AB, 431 SH

1982: 4458 AB, 471 SH

Doesn't seem like that big a difference.
   29. Ron J Posted: January 19, 2021 at 10:14 AM (#6000493)
From sacs in 10.6% of PAs to 9.6% -- though this doesn't address how frequently they batted with a sac in order.

Detectable but not meaningful.

   30. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 19, 2021 at 10:18 AM (#6000494)
#28: The 2019 numbers above are for 2433 games, the 1982 numbers are for 1929 games. The whole system is atrophying - the DH is being implemented, by a succession of pinch hitters. The NL added 350 pinch hit appearances between 2015 and 2019, while pitcher plate appearances fell by 250. Even good hitting pitchers can't "help themselves" much anymore, because even the strongest workhorses are going to the plate about 3 times per week.
   31. Ron J Posted: January 19, 2021 at 10:33 AM (#6000498)
#30 That's another piece in the feedback loop that we've seen. In a high leverage situation they'll hit for any starter.

There's a secondary thing going on too. Part of pacing yourself through the higher workloads of the old days meant not bothering to use your best stuff against pitchers (and most #8 hitters). Doesn't happen any longer. Pitchers basically don't pace themselves.
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: January 19, 2021 at 10:35 AM (#6000499)
though this doesn't address how frequently they batted with a sac in order.


I would assume it's quite a bit less frequently. In 1982, NL teams averaged 8.79 hits per game, 3.07 walks per game and .14 HBP per game, minus .67 homers per game. That's going to leave 11.33 times a player reaches base without homering.

In 2019, teams had 8.59 hits per game, 3.31 walks per game and .43 HBP per game, minus 1.36 homers per game. That leaves you 10.97 times a player reaches base without homering.

This also leaves out ROE, though that would only expand the differences, as NL teams averaged .87 errors per game in 1982 and .59 per game in 2019.

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