In the midst of discussions for the new collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Player’s Association are new rule discussions since leaked by sources in on the talks. While some of the proposed new rules are nothing surprising and are generally pace of play adjustments championed by Commissioner Rob Manfred there have been snippets of larger changes that could affect the entire MLB landscape. The rules that have been lobbied in discussions include:
Universal Designated Hitter
While purists of the National League may balk at the idea of a designated hitter, it’s becoming a foregone conclusion that the DH may find itself in both leagues. With the departure of strategies such as...utilizing a pinch hitter to sit your pitcher...double switches and...the excitement of pitchers who rake® comes the benefit of higher paying jobs for many players and the chance to extend the careers of those who can still bring the wood but have long forgotten the glove. The league’s need for
speed offense would also be sate in lieu of more extreme measures outlined in proposed rule changes found further below.
For the Padres such a rule change would provide an immediate boon: players such as Franmil Reyes and Wil Myers immediately become commodities both in the lineup and in trade. The DH in the
Arena American League has gone from “big guy who can hit but can’t field” to more of a platoon position to shuffle hitters around in. A rotation of Hunter Renfroe, Myers, Franchy Cordero, and Reyes starts to look more like good lineup strategy and less like an overcrowded outfield. Up and coming players on the farm (where there is a DH, dontyaknow) such as Josh Naylor would also have a spot on the big league roster.
While the charm of a pitcher laying down a perfect drag bunt or possibly sending one yard might be lost, it seems to be a foregone conclusion these days that such baseball will become a part of yesteryear.
Three Batter Minimum for Pitchers
A rule that any pitcher who enters the game must face three batters is definitely slanted towards pace of play concerns; one of the bigger issues towards the end of games is the manager slow-trotting towards the mound in order to make the switch from a righty to a lefty and then once again to a righty once the lefty dispatches the batter. Anyone who’s witnessed Bruce Bochy or Dave Roberts knows the drag such chess moves can put on the game.
The issue with such a rule is that it would effectively eliminate LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) pitchers and simplify bullpen affairs where many arms are beginning to make big money by making singular outs and small appearances. In the case that a bullpen pitcher begins to get lit up within the frame of two batters, a manager would be forced to hold the hook until his pitcher threw against the third batter. By the time the third batter finishes his at-bat the tone and score of the game could have shifted drastically.
3 batter minimum OR finish the inning. The goal is to reduce mid-inning pitching changes. Doesn't matter for game time if you change pitchers between innings.— Robert Stock (@RobertStock6) February 6, 2019
Our guy Robert Stock may have the right idea on this one.
20 Second Pitch Clock
This rule bandied about since last year carries teeth: the MLB has the ability to unilaterally implement this rule without approval from the MLBPA.
Arguments against the pitch clock mainly focus on veteran pitchers who have been set in their individual pitching ways for years and the idea that a pitch clock may also affect batters who are slow to get set for the pitch. According to ESPN the average for a pitcher between throws rests at 23.5 seconds; no pitcher who qualified for the ERA title in 2017 went under 20 seconds between pitches.
Also thrown around in discussions is how teams may place in the draft depending on performance. Tanking for high draft picks may start to become ill-advised as small-market teams who perform better may be awarded higher draft picks or bonus pool money and teams who lose 90 games or more in consecutive seasons may see a penalty. The particulars have yet to be hammered out and may simply just be talk to increase the parity around the league.
Discussions towards a singular trade deadline before the All Star Break rather than the dual trade/waiver trade deadlines have also been rumored; such a change may also stimulate the offseason market that has long since been frigid over the past two seasons. Talk of expanding the rosters to 26 men with a 12 pitcher maximum have also been rumored.
With a swing and a whiff at Kyler Murray, discussions of allowing teams to offer MLB contracts to draft picks to better ensure talent going into the MLB has also been heard alongside incentives for rookie player performance leading to earlier free agency. Service time manipulation remains a sore spot for fans, the MLB, and the MLBPA with no clear solutions in sight for big league ready players being held down for service time reasons.
Probably most shocking to traditionalists and purists are discussions to...
Lower Mound Height/Change Mound Distance
In a more drastic change meant to help improve offense, whispers indicate that MLB will begin a study on mound height and distance with possible changes to come in 2020. The last mound change was famously implemented after the 1968 campaign saw Bob Gibson throw an insane 1.12 ERA on the season. The mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches after complaints of poor offenses and too many pitchers doing too well.
With the advent of pitchers throwing harder and faster than ever and strikeouts on the rise, a change in where the pitcher stands could be imminent.
While none of the above rule changes and suggestions have yet to be implemented and many of them may never see the light of day (or be shelved until 2020), what do you think of the talks and what would you be OK with seeing change on the diamond?