Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes of a proposal made at the general managers' meetings last fall to speed up games by requiring a relief pitcher to face more than one batter -- perhaps as many as three.
Oh, I know what you're saying. Blasphemy! Don't mess with baseball! It's perfect the way it is!
Now, take a look at which wide-eyed radical executive made this proposal:
Cubs president Theo Epstein floated such a possibility at the general managers’ meetings in November during a gathering of GMs and Major League Baseball officials, according to major-league sources. No formal proposal was made, but the concept generated a mostly positive reaction, sources said.
Say, all you Praise Theo people. Yes, I'm looking at you. Change your mind yet?
This would be a big change in the way baseball is played, for sure. As Rosenthal notes, it would make managers think twice about the constant trudge to the mound to have a LOOGY face one tough lefthanded hitter, then yank him again. It would, in fact, likely force managers and GMs to look for pitchers who can retire hitters equally well from either side of the plate. It would definitely speed up games by reducing the number of mound visits and pitching changes. It might even reduce the size of bullpens, because if you don't need to keep a LOOGY or two around, maybe you could get away with having only six relievers instead of seven or eight.
That might allow more versatility on your bench, maybe even carrying three catchers...
But here's what it would do almost immediately on implementation:
Relievers faced one batter or fewer in 8.7 percent of their appearances over the past five seasons, two or fewer in 16.4 percent, according to STATS. Increase the minimum to three batters, and the minutes would melt away. Like any proposed rule change, this one would need to be thoroughly vetted, the better to safeguard it from unintended consequences. But at first glance, everything seems in order. Relievers would need to become more complete pitchers. Top sluggers would gain more frequent platoon advantages. More action, more runs, fewer stoppages.
So what do you think of Theo's proposal? It would, as Rosenthal said, have to be vetted to prevent unintended consequences. But I think it's worth exploring, anyway.