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Proposed MLB Rule Changes

A deeper look into the proposed changes by Rob Mafred

Rob Manfred
The Associated Press

Proposed Changes to the MLB

If you guys haven’t heard, Rob Manfred and Tony Clark (MLBPA Executive Director) have been in discussions about changes of the game of baseball. That’s nothing new, and it further expands on the desire to increase offense in baseball, and reduce the time of games. This is not the first iteration of these discussions with previous ones including pitch clocks (implemented in the minors) limiting mound visits (implemented in the MLB), and ideas way outside the box such as banning the shift (not implemented).

Before we go into detail on the proposed changes, there are the usual objections in regards to changing the game that everyone clings to tradition in. Honestly, changes in baseball are nothing new. Aspects such as replays on calls, banning the breakup of plays at second base or even crashing into the catcher are just recent changes that come to mind. But the sport is ever evolving, even down to the height of the mound and the ball itself have changed over the years. So for those traditionalists out there, it may be time to take a step off the high horse of history and evaluate whether or not each proposed changed would be good for the game of baseball. The world has changed, from pace of information, to our expectations of entertainment, but change is always uncomfortable. With that said, let’s look at the proposed changes:

Designated Hitter in Both Leagues

Concept: Designated Hitter in NL

Effectiveness: There’s little question that this would increase the amount of offense in the game.

My Commentary: This is obviously not a new idea, there has been rumblings throughout baseball for as long as I can remember on standardizing between leagues. Having grown up an NL fan my entire life until the Astros switched leagues, I have a feeling there will be a large number of fans who would balk at this immediately. And there is some validity to the reasoning of why, considering it removes a significant chunk of strategy from the game, especially in regards of when to pull pitchers, double switches, etc.

With that said, there were 54 pitchers who had more than 40 plate appearances in 2018, 0 were a league average hitter. Drop that number to 30 plate appearances, and 1 of 77 hit at or above league average in wRC+. Pitchers are generally abysmal to watch bat. To me, adding the DH in the NL is the simplest answer to the issue.

What is the other solution? Honestly, it’s simple, let pitchers bat. No I’m not talking about keeping the rules exactly the same. In the minor leagues, the DH has been standardized for both AL and NL teams. If you’re a Pitcher called up in the NL, you’ve now spent years in the minor leagues without ever touching a bat in a real game. There’s a huge learning curve that they now face and for the miniscule number of pitchers who actually can hit fairly well in the majors, I am in disbelief that they are able to accomplish this.

I still miss NL baseball, but admittedly, when I watch games against NL teams now, I just dread watching the pitchers bat. It’s boring and has the feel of mindless tradition, because “that’s how it always has been done”. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the strategy aspects of it, but it’s just boring.

This seems like one of the easier initiatives that the commissioner has brought to the public (definitely more so than a pitch clock). There is mentions to changes in roster size, which I think works well when combining this initiative to appease the players union and the ultimate goal of increasing offense in baseball. I wouldn’t avidly fight on either side of this if I was in a room trying to make the decision, but the simplicity of the proposed changes and effectiveness is by far one of the best proposed changes that I’ve seen.

Personally, I wish they’d let Pitchers bat throughout the minors, which I think would improve the offense from that spot in the line up, but it would not be a quick change, nor necessarily embraced by others, and ultimately would be less effective than simply adding the DH.

Minimum 3-Batter Rule for Relievers

Concept: Creating a rule to force a pitcher to face a minimum of 3 batters.

Effectiveness: Pitching changes take time, matching pitcher vs batter for strengths does reduce offense.

My Commentary: This proposal caught me a little off guard, but especially with the rise of “Openers”, LOOGYs, and consistent pitching changes based on match up, I can see where this stems from. I will be interested to see if those who oppose the changes to the NL due to the strategy aspect support this strategic usage of pitchers. Obviously, there’s significant differences between the two, but most people who oppose the DH cite the strategic aspects of the game.

Again, this rule seems far better than some of the previous attempts from the commissioner in his attempts to increase offensive output and reduce game time. I think this proposed change would be far more controversial from the MLBPA standpoint. While there has been quite a few veterans who have spoken out against the opener and some of these other strategies, it’s a whole different situation putting a friend out of a job. There are quite a few players throughout the league, who fall under the LOOGY type definition, which would largely be out of a job.

I am torn on this decision, but am leaning towards it being the right move. I personally love the advanced statistics side of the game and believe that teams should do everything in their power to win, but for the good of the game, it probably makes more sense for it to be eliminated.

Summary:

Changes are coming for baseball, they have to whether we like it or not. Looking at the previous proposed ideas of banning the shift, pitch clocks, starting extra innings with a runner on second, I was pretty adamant against the changes. This time, I can’t help but think they make sense. I don’t think I’d be personally advocating for these, but I wouldn’t be pushing hard against them either. They are logical, and most importantly I believe they will actually drive the result that they are intended for.