No Pitchin’

Wednesday’s match up against Toronto was a split-squad game, and Beautiful Brad decided to play every one of the 2nd-string roster and non-roster invitees, rookie hopefuls, minor league prospects, and whirly-gigs in training camp. Of course, this meant that there were plenty of substitutions, and to fill the downtime, the Tigers announcers decided to share a little tidbit of interest:

Regarding the recent rule change allowing managers to flash Gashouse Gang signs to intentionally walk batters without pitching to them, the broadcasters said Ausmus had informed them that he’d texted Manfred for a clarification. He asked the Commissioner if it were permissible under the new rule to bring in a pitcher for the IBB and then replace him without a pitch being thrown. Previously, if you put someone in, they had to throw at least one pitch. Manfred confirmed that it was no longer necessary to actually throw the ball in such a situation. The no-pitch IBB would count in an actual pitch’s stead.

The strategy implication is that a manager can now bring in a pitcher in an attempt to force an opposing manager’s hand — to make a batting substitution — by, say, bringing in a lefty, for example. The replacement batter could then be walked and the non-throwing pitcher replaced. Basically, you could mess with the other team’s roster without having to screw up yours, and, if all you need is a designated warm body on the mound, you don’t need a guy who’s actually available to throw to come in. A manager can intentionally send out someone without the slightest object of furthering play by doing so.

Purists — and I’m going to include myself in this get-off-my-lawn congregation — will certainly be outraged that this further removes the game from a contest of skills and feeds the gamification aspect of match-ups. For those who love the athleticism and action of baseball, managerial strategy lacks appeal, and changes that bolster the impact of the coaching staff on games frustrate and annoy. This move is sure to irritate many such hardcore fans.

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Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon consider an IBB scenario.

It isn’t clear that it would have much appeal for others either. Come to the park, casual fans, for the crack of the roster change and the thrill of the hand signal! Chicks dig the long ball explaining to the kids why they made a pitching change and the pitcher didn’t throw the ball before they brought in another guy to pitch. I can’t imagine this won’t stuff the stands. I mean, it might give the illusion of more action on the field from the guys trotting in back-to-back…

But, Manfred’s clarification also gives the lie to the notion that the no-pitch IBB is a time-saving device. Bringing in a guy you know you really don’t want to pitch so you can force the other team’s hand and then signaling an IBB before changing pitchers again in no way improves the pace of play. In fact, such moves will slow the game further and increase (even if marginally) the number of players per game. Clearly, Manfred is aware of the strategic use of the signaled IBB and its potential for manipulating rosters, which means he understands he has made the game less exciting and introduced a bulky impediment that distracts from on-field play — his PR statements to the contrary.

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7 thoughts on “No Pitchin’

  1. I had hoped that when Manfred circularfiled Bud Light’s dumb rule about the All Star Game determining postseason advantage, he might also excise some of his predecessor’s other dim excrescences. Instead, he’s added an idiotic carbuncle of his own. Go figger.

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  2. Yes, this is a great idea.

    Want to IBB a guy but need to buy time? Bring in tomorrow’s starter to lob his allowed warm up pitches, flash 4 fingers, then bring in the guy you really want to pitch.

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    • Wasn’t it legal before this to bring in whoever, lob the warmup pitches, then lob four more to the catcher standing two feet off the plate and then bring in the guy you really want to pitch?

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      • Yeah, but teams didn’t usually do it. They’d usually meet on the mound, have the guy already in the game dilly dally or try some pick offs, then IBB walk the guy before bringing in the reliever.

        You don’t really want to have a guy that hasn’t even warmed up come in to IBB a guy with men on base as a WP is possible…if you don’t have to actually throw the pitches, you can bring in anyone to IBB the batter….then bring in the guy you really wanted to…so now we may get 2 pitching changes instead of 1.

        I guess I don’t really care. It’s a dumb rule change with no real upside and, probably, no real down side. What it won’t do is speed up the game. Teams still need time to get pitchers warmed up and there are plenty of legal ways to waste time (e.g. endless pickoff attempts).

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