This week, I’ve written several articles about MLB rule changes, both those that have been instituted for this year and some I’d like to see. Those include:
- Fewer position players likely pitching this year
- The extra-inning runner becoming permanent
- My proposal to have a mercy rule
- My proposal to bring back seven-inning games in doubleheaders
As you know, Major League Baseball is instituting three major rule changes for the 2023 season: The pitch timer, restrictions on defensive shifts and larger bases. You can see three explanatory videos that I took at a MLB demonstration in Arizona on Tuesday at this link, and I encourage you to watch those videos. They make it easy to understand the effects of these three new rules.
Without a doubt, these rule changes will produce major differences in the way baseball is played, beginning just a week from now when Spring Training begins, because MLB has stated that there will be no grace period given and umpires will begin to call violations during spring games. This is a good thing, to get players accustomed to the new rules, and hopefully five weeks’ worth of spring games will make for a smooth transition on Opening Day.
What I want to ask you today is a bit different.
No doubt — especially after I’ve seen the comments to the articles linked above! — you have strong opinions about various rule changes in baseball, or rules that you might want to see changed.
So I’m going to ask you to post in the comments about a current rule you’d like to see changed. No restrictions here, since we’re talking hypothetically anyway. I would like to see you be serious about this and not silly, though. Let’s try to get some good discussion going.
What would I change? Well, since Rob Manfred became Commissioner in 2015, there have been a number of rule changes instituted that were supposed to speed up the pace of play. They really didn’t accomplish that at all. And now, with the pitch timer, they’re unnecessary, in my view.
So what I would do is dump the automatic intentional walk and the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers.
It’s rare, but occasionally a pitch thrown in an intentional walk would get away and cause havoc on the basepaths. I’d like to see that possibility return. You can see an example of that here. Further, the automatic intentional walk wasn’t really saving much time — maybe 30 seconds for each one.
The three-batter minimum took a decision out of the manager’s hands. What if a reliever comes in and just can’t throw strikes? You’ve seen this happen. Generally, this can be seen in a couple of batters’ time, or maybe even just one at-bat. Under the three-batter minimum, a manager can’t yank a pitcher who obviously has nothing until he (possibly) puts three men on base.
In this 2020 article in The Athletic, Cliff Corcoran went through all the mid-inning pitching changes made in 2019 and reached this conclusion about how much time the three-batter rule would save:
However, while there were 2,162 pitching appearances that lasted fewer than three batters in 2019, 1,471 of them concluded with the end of an inning or the end of the game. That leaves just 691 appearances that the three-batter minimum would have extended, and that’s before searching that sample for outings that ended in injury and thus also would have been exempt from the rule.
Over the course of the 2,429 major-league games played in 2019, those 691 pitching appearances work out to just one every 3 1/2 games. If, in every case, the new rule eliminated the mid-inning pitching change entirely, it would have made the average time of a major-league game in 2019 (drumroll, please) … 34 seconds shorter.
I would guess that this number would have been similar in 2022.
With the pitch timer, we don’t need these rules that have “shortened” games by a minuscule amount. I’d get rid of them.
What would you do?