Should Major League Baseball Modify Pitching-Change Rules?

Jonathan Daniel

With games ever-lengthening and bullpens ever-enlarging, it's a question worth asking.

It happened again Tuesday night, as it happens in what seems to be the overwhelming majority of big-league games in the second decade of the 21st Century.

What happened? A manager trudging to the mound, left or right arm in the air, signalling a pitching change. During the Cubs' win over the Pirates, Rick Renteria used five relievers to record the game's last seven outs. This slowed the pace of the game down, and of the five relievers, three of them faced just one hitter.

The Lefthanded One-Out Guy (or "LOOGY," as he has become known) is, to me, the scourge of modern baseball. Yes, there is value in gaining the platoon advantage -- but I don't think it's enough to do it every single time there's such an advantage to be gained in the late innings of games, as most managers do today. Facing David Ortiz? Sure, go ahead and bring in the lefty. Facing John Baker? Not so much.

In the recap to Monday's game, there was at one point a discussion of pitch counts and other things that make the modern game a parade of relief pitchers. During that back-and-forth, BCBer The Deputy Mayor of Rush Street made this simple suggestion which would eliminate most of the lefty-righty shenanigans:

I’m sticking with making relievers face 2 batters at minimum as the change I’d like them to try first.

This would appear to be an elegant solution to the problem. Want to bring in a LOOGY? Fine, but he's going to have to face the righthanded hitter after the tough lefty he pitches against, too, unless that lefty hitter (and sometimes, he'll be replaced by a righthanded pinch-hitter) makes the last out of an inning.

One thing this would do is promote the development of relief pitchers who can get both righty and lefty hitters out. You wouldn't need multiple lefthanded specialists in the bullpen; in fact, teams could get rid of eight-man pens and go back to seven-man or even six-man bullpens, allowing extra position players for even more flexibility offensively. Further, it would speed up games. Tuesday night's Cubs game had five mid-inning pitching changes, though one of them was forced by an injury to Pirates starter Francisco Liriano.

Thought this would make for a good discussion topic while we wait for tonight's game. Do you like this idea? Hate it? Have another one that you think is better? Weigh in, in the comments.

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