It used to be that seeing position players pitch in blowouts was a rare thing, once every few years.
But even with larger bullpens, teams have tried to protect pitching arms in blowouts by using position players to pitch more frequently. There were 132 such appearances last year, including a memorable performance by Frank Schwindel against the Yankees in which Kyle Higashioka homered off a 35 mile per hour offering [VIDEO].
Fun, yes, up to a point.
Per Jesse Rogers at ESPN.com, MLB is considering changing the situations in which a position player can pitch:
The new rule: Teams will be more limited in when they can pitch a position player. The previous rule allowed them to use one when up or down by six or more runs, but the sides are discussing a tweak in which the leading team would have to be up by as many as 10 or more while the trailing team would have to be down by eight or more in order to pitch a position player. The league and players are finalizing the new rule.
What they’re trying to change: The league and now even the players agree that too many position players are taking the mound over the course of the season. In fact, players believe it’s having a bigger and bigger impact on production, from offensive numbers to even defensive metrics — all of which come into play during arbitration and free agency. In 2017, there were 32 instances of position players pitching in a game. Last season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that number jumped to 132.
This would be a good idea, I think. While it’s entertaining to see something like the Schwindel “eephus” pitch, as noted in Rogers’ article, it’s happening far too often. Per Eric Stephen of our SB Nation site True Blue LA, this rule change would reduce the number of position player pitching appearances by about 30 percent:
Of the 132 position-player pitching relief appearances, one was in extra innings. This new rule would have eliminated ~39 of the other 131 appearances.
The rest of Rogers’ article discusses the other rule changes (pitch clock, restrictions on defensive shifts, larger bases) which we will all see in Spring Training, very soon.
The proposed change in when position players can pitch...
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