The MLB and MLBPA formally announced some big rule changes for 2019 and 2020. Most of the rules have some great benefits that should help players, teams and fans. Others have potential consequences that could negatively impact the game. Let’s take a look at these rules and weigh in on their impact, one way or the other.
August trades are dead
Overall, I like the concept of this move. The waiver trade deadline carried way too many burdens that teams had to go through in order to move players. I do not like taking an option to move players later in the season. Many teams are on the bubble by the end of July, and August offered an opportunity for competitive teams to add sudden missing pieces and teams out of contention to gain some value for players who will be moving on. I think it’d be best to have a mid-August deadline, but for now I don’t mind the direction the rule is heading.
A new All-Star election process
The All-Stars will still be decided by the fans, but now there will be two rounds of voting. The first round will have fans vote for players on every team. Then there will be an “election day” where players vote for the top three vote getters at each position, nine in the outfield. There’s also a new bonus for making the All-Star team. This is all fine, and might make the All-Star voting process more engaging.
$2.5 MM prize pool for the Home Run Derby
The winner of the Home Run Derby will get a $1 million bonus. More money for the players is always good and this increases the incentive for participating in the derby.
Maximum number of mound visits in a game reduced to five
The mound visit rule is a restriction I don’t really mind. So many catchers had developed a habit of running out to the mound after almost every pitch. I don’t believe anyone passed five mound visits last year (although, I didn’t pull up the stats), so this doesn’t appear to be a big impact.
Commercial breaks reduced to two minutes
This is actually a good way to increase fan engagement. The more time a game is on TV, the less likely fans are to get distracted. Good job, Manfred.
A new Joint Committee for rules
The committee will be made up by MLB and MLBPA members. Communication is great, and this rule is also fine.
Starting in 2020:
Rosters expand to 26
The roster expansion is fantastic. By requiring more positions, more players will need to be hired and paid. It also creates an opportunity for implementing new strategies. Cool!
September roster expansion reduced to 28 players
Only adding two addition players will not be the benefit it once was, but I’m ok with this. Often, so many players would be brought up that most would barely see the field. It also even the playing field for team that might have a weaker 40-man than their peers.
Limits on position players pitching
Position players can only pitch if the team is up or down by seven or more runs. A team can designate a two-way player, but the pitcher must throw 20 or more innings and start 20 or more games at a position/designated hitter in the current or previous season.
Pitchers must face at least three batters
The rule comes with some important addendums. First, a pitcher can be removed for an injury. Second, a pitcher can face less than three batters if he ends a half inning before facing the minimum.
This is the rule I have the most problems with. Teams like Milwaukee are being substantially more reactive to a pitcher’s performance. When a pitcher comes out and gets shelled, a new pitcher is likely to come in very quickly. Taking away that option makes it harder to be so stringent and protective. Although the Brewers might not pull pitchers quickly often, the times they do matter.
Additionally, it limits opportunities for specialty pitchers. There is no benefit to keeping a ROOGY or LOOGY on the roster when they will likely need to face hitters on the opposite side of the plate. Granted, there is a lot of data that shows the one-out pitcher is dying out naturally.
A 15-day minimum when a player is optioned or put on the injured list
This rule is also very bad. My bigger qualm is with the injured list. Having a 10-day injury list made it easier to justify giving players a break. Presumably this encouraged more players to rest and recover instead of playing through injuries and making them worst.
The option is a hit to the Brewers’ strategy of moving players back and forth to keep maximize player usage. The roster should be deep enough to work around this “problem” and it truly shouldn’t be an issue.