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.
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.