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A few updates on new MLB rules for 2022

You’ve heard about some of these before, now we have more details.

Shohei Ohtani
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A number of playing rule changes for Major League Baseball games have been previously announced: The universal designated hitter, various roster rules and limits, and the ghost runner in extra innings (popularly known as the Manfred Man).

Morgan Sword, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations, said in a statement: “As part of our discussions with the MLBPA regarding the condensed 162-game schedule, we have agreed to extend the extra-innings rule to the 2022 Championship Season and temporarily expand rosters. We are excited to see the universal designated hitter in action this season with amended rules that will promote the use of two-way players going forward.”

MLBPA Director of Player Services Kevin Slowey said in a statement: “The expansion of the designated hitter and giving two-way players enhanced flexibility to showcase their talents will benefit the game for the foreseeable future. The roster and extra-inning adjustments will also serve to protect the health and safety of players during what will be a unique 2022 season.”

A few more details on these rule changes were released by MLB Thursday, so I thought I’d pass them along to you.

The universal designated hitter

The DH will now be used in all games across both leagues. Honestly, this was long overdue, especially since the advent of year-round interleague play in 2013. This change to the rule is worth noting:

It is not mandatory that a Club designate a hitter for the pitcher. However, in the event the starting pitcher will bat for himself, the player will be considered two separate people for purposes of Rule 5.11(a). In such cases, the manager should list 10 players on his team’s lineup card, and this player should be named twice – once as the starting pitcher and once as the Designated Hitter. Thus, if the starting pitcher is replaced, he can continue as the Designated Hitter, and if the Designated Hitter is replaced, he can continue as the pitcher (but can no longer hit for himself). If the player is simultaneously replaced both as a starting pitcher and Designated Hitter, he cannot be replaced by another two-way player filling both roles as separate people (this can be done only once on the initial lineup card by identifying that the starting pitcher will bat for himself).

COMMENT: This is going to be known as the Shohei Ohtani Rule, since in practice he’s the only MLB player it applies to. It’s interesting that they put in this rule the clause about a DH being allowed to pitch, but then he could no longer bat. There could be other players this could apply to in the future. In fact, the Angels have one, Michael Lorenzen, a player who has both pitched and played the outfield. He’s had more success pitching and I suspect he’ll be focusing on that going forward.

Roster limits

There will be 28 players allowed on active rosters through games of May 1 (and 29 for any doubleheaders in that time span). When rosters return to 26 active players, there will be a limit of 13 pitchers and 13 position players, but prior to May 2 teams can have as many pitchers as they like. Also, MLB says:

Pitchers and two-way players are eligible for placement on the 10-day Injured List prior to May 2. Beginning on May 2, those players will only be eligible for placement on the 15-day Injured List.

The required number of days a pitcher or two-way player must remain on option or outright assignment prior to a subsequent recall or re-selection will be 10 days for any option or outright that occurs prior to May 2.

Any optional assignments prior to May 2 shall not count towards the agreement that limits optional assignments for any player to five.

COMMENT: The extended injured list time to 15 days is to try to avoid things like the “Iowa Shuttle.” Same for limiting the number of times optioned in a season, though players can be sent up and down without regard to that limit through May 1.

The Cubs have 23 games scheduled through May 1, 11 at home and 12 on the road. They do not have any doubleheaders during that span, at least at this time.

Extra inning games

The batter (or a substitute for the batter) who leads off an inning shall continue to be the batter who would lead off the inning in the absence of this extra-innings rule.

The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter. By way of example, if the number five hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the tenth inning, the number four player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base. However, if the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter is the pitcher, the runner placed on second base at the start of that half-inning may be the player preceding the pitcher in the batting order. Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game, as is the case in all circumstances under the OBR.

For purposes of calculating earned runs, the runner who begins an inning on second base pursuant to this rule shall be deemed to be a runner who has reached second base because of a fielding error, but no error shall be charged to the opposing team or to any player.

This is the same rule that’s been used the last two years. I wish they had modified it to start in the 12th inning. I could live with it more easily if they did that and I suppose that’s a possibility for 2023 and beyond.

The note about “if the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter is the pitcher” is largely irrelevant going forward because of the universal DH, but I suppose they left it in “just in case.” You could call this the “Tony La Russa Rule”:

Rookie qualification

Rookie Qualifications moving forward will remain the same as the 2021 season. Because 2021 was the first full season without significantly expanded September rosters that allowed up to 40 active players, the determination of rookie status no longer excluded September days toward the threshold of 45 days. Like 2021, the Rookie Qualifications will read as follows: “A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he had (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League Club or Clubs during the Championship Season (excluding time on the Injured List).”

COMMENT: In practice, this probably won’t change much. Since the few call-ups that are made in September very likely have had other previous call-ups, their number of days on an active roster wouldn’t be very much affected by this change. But I thought I’d pass it along to you anyway.