It’s spring, a season that marks new beginnings. In Major League Baseball, it also means new rules designed to increase the pace of play.
Both starters and relievers must face at least three batters or reach the end of the inning before being allowed to exit the game—unless they experience injury or illness.
What’s the impact? Managers who like to use LOOGYs will find this new landscape challenging, and it may have some impact on teams employing an opener to get out specific hitters. In terms of the Rockies, if Jake McGee is having a bad game, it will last for awhile.
Bud Black has not been enthusiastic about this change. As he noted during the winter meetings, “I think the chess game still is going to be in play but...the endgame decisions are going to be drastically different. You’ll see from game No. 1. We’re all going to have to learn a different type of strategy.”
He elaborated in a conversation with Patrick Saunders, noting that this new rule will “requir[e] more decisions”:
If a guy threw the night before, say 30 pitches, in the old days you could go to him, at two in the afternoon,” Black said. “He could say, ‘Hey Buddy, I can give you one guy tonight.’ That’s great, but what if you don’t get that one guy? Then you have to face another batter. It gets tricky. . . . This is the new strategy we have to work through when we talk about who’s available and who’s not.”
This rule may present a significant challenge to a Rockies bullpen that was ranked 29th in MLB in 2019 and has remained largely unchanged.
MLB has made a number of changes to rosters, including:
- Number of Players on the Roster—Until August 31, teams will be allowed to have 26 players on their rosters, but only 13 may be pitchers. In September, rosters will expand to 28 players with 14 allowed pitchers. (In the past, September rosters could include as many as 40 players.) When the postseason begins, rosters will return to 26.
What was the 26th man will become the 27th man, which is player to be used under special circumstances, such as a double header. The 27th man may be a pitcher, allowing team to briefly carry 14 pitchers.
Black has always liked to carry 13 pitchers, so this change will allow the Rockies to have a fifth position player. (Hello, Sam Hilliard!) Black has said in the past that he sees a September roster of 40 as both too big and making September games unnecessarily long.
- Two-way Player Designation—A player who both hits and pitches now has an official title: ”two-way player.” This allows players to be considered position players without counting toward one of the 13 pitchers. To qualify, players must throw at least 20 MLB innings and start in at least 20 games as a position player or DH, batting at least three times. This rule primarily applies to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. SB Nation’s Eric Stephen outlines other players who may be affected (e.g. Michael Lorenzen, Brendan McKay, Oscar Colas, and Jared Walsh).
- Position Players Pitching—A position player may only pitch if a game goes to extra innings or a team is winning or losing by at least six runs. (2019 saw a record number of position players pitching with 85.)
We now know the conditions under which Ian Desmond will be allowed to take the mound. (It will take some work, however, for him to be designated a two-way player.)
Changes in Injured List and Option Periods
In 2020, MLB will return to a 15-day IL for pitchers and two-way players. After being placed on the IL, a pitcher may not be reinstated for 15 days. (Since 2017, that number was 10 days.) Position players still have a minimum 10-day IL stay. The option period for pitchers will also be 15 days while position players will remain at 10 days.
The rule has the potential to be challenging as well in that any pitchers sent to Albuquerque for a reset (e.g. Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland in the past) will be required to spend at least 15 days there.
Reduced Challenge Time
Managers will only have 20 seconds to challenge a call, down from 30 seconds.
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What are your thoughts on the rule changes? Will they make any difference for the Rockies in 2020?