The MLB Made Some New Rules And I Have Thoughts!

In case you haven’t already seen, the MLB has announced a few new rule changes for this year and the next coming years. Most of which are actually pretty good!

Here’s a quick list of all the proposed changes.

  • Pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters in a game beginning in 2020.
  • There will be a single July 31 trade deadline, starting this season, with teams prohibited from making any type of trade after that date.
  • Mound visits will be reduced from six to five during games beginning this year, and perhaps reduced to four visits in 2020.
  • There will be an All-Star election day starting this summer where fans can determine the starting players in the All-Star Game with 24-hour voting.
  • The Home Run Derby will now pay $1 million to the winning player.
  • Commercial breaks during innings will be shortened by 20 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • Position players will be prohibited from pitching in games that don’t go into extra innings, unless a team is ahead or behind by at least eight runs.
  • Committees will be appointed by the Commissioner’s office and the union to formally discuss the game’s economic concerns. They will study ways to make the free-agent market more active. They will discuss eliminating the incentive for teams from purposely losing to gain top draft picks. They will explore efforts to prevent teams from manipulating service time that delays their top prospects from being called up to the major leagues.
  • And finally, beginning in 2020, all teams will have a 28-man roster in the final month of September, after having a 26-man roster the first five months of the season.

The 3 batter minimum is a pretty significant change, and will improve upon my personal biggest gripe int he game. No longer will a manager be trotting out to the mound after literally every batter, an issue that gets exponentially worse when rosters expand. Thankfully that’s also getting improved as rosters will now no longer be effectively unlimited in September, but rather limited to a modest 28 players per dugout. I’m sure clubhouse attendants are dancing in the streets as we speak. MLB will also be limiting the total number of visits from 6 to 5 with potential further cuts in the coming seasons.

I’m also very shocked to see they will be limiting commercial breaks to 2 mins, cutting away all that precious advertisement revenue. Better time those bathroom breaks a little better!

In some sad news, position players will now be prohibited from pitching in games that don’t go into extra innings, unless a team is ahead or behind by 8 runs. I’m not really sure how often this very specified scenario happened. My guess is this was something the union asked for likely due to concerns a position player would blow out their arm throwing 68 mph fastballs. We will still see some blow out mop-ups by the backup outfielder, and Chris Davis can still strike out the side in the 17th inning, but the position player pitching watch will be on low temp.

One of the bigger changes will be the elimination of the annoying and confusing waiver-wire trades. From now on, no trades will be allowed after the July 31st deadline. This change is likely done to try to force a bubble’s teams hands and hopefully spur more exciting trade news that the league loves so much. I bet a bunch of writers will be happy to never try to explain the waiver trade rules again.

The league is now bribing people to show up for the Home Run Derby, which will probably not work anyways, and all the All-Star elections crap will be filtered down to one particular day with 24-hour voting. No more incessant reminders to “Vote early, vote often, you can only vote 5 times per day per email!”

Finally we get to what I believe to be some of the most interesting news. The league will be forming committees in conjunction with the union to investigate why no one’s signing anyone until February, and why players aren’t reaching expected salaries. They will also be looking into the incredibly stupid service time games that teams play to lock up promising young players to league minimums, while also claiming that older players are too old to be of value. I am shocked to see the league is willing to discuss these issues, however I’m wondering if the union didn’t make it very clear these were their top two issues that could cause a work stoppage and this is the first attempt to head that off at the pass. I am very interested to see what the outcome of these two committees are, if any, or if the league is willing to put forth a true good face effort here.

So what say you? Are you excited for the changes? Outraged? Are you just happy to see a new article with my name on it?

26 thoughts on “The MLB Made Some New Rules And I Have Thoughts!

  1. I agree that the consequential stuff has to do with service time and economics. It was quite surprising to me that the owners gave away the 26 player per team without any concessions from players. This and the fact that owners are starting negotiations so early suggests that they are very worried about angry players forcing a lockdown/strike (whichever). I’m glad to see them starting early so they have a chance to find points of agreement. But I think that service time, rosters and draft issues will be so thorny from an economic point of view that they will need all that time.

    Three batters per reliever is very hard to predict. That one has “unintended consequences” written all over it.

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  2. Regarding the position player pitching thing…

    I guess this means Shohei Ohtani is officially a pitcher who sometimes DHs? Because by the letter of the law, any other designation and he wouldn’t ever be able to be used as a starting pitcher.

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    • I was thinking of Ohtani also, but I think the rule is aimed at relief situations. To turn it around, does this mean only position players can pinch hit for pitchers, eliminating a Greinke, Scherzer, MadBum, or Michael Lorenzen pinch hitting for a pitcher?

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    • There’s a “two way” player designation allowing the player to play a position and pitch. But to qualify a player must have pitched something like 20 MLB innings the previous season and also have played some number of innings at a position. Ohtani may have played enough last year before he got hurt to qualify, But what if he doesn’t pitch this year as they allow more time for this surgery to heal but does DH? How does he reestablish his designation? And how would he have established it when he first came to the Angels not having had a previous season? What about a future minor leaguer who pitches and hits?

      Bad rule. Watching the backup catcher relive his high school glories is fun.

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      • I see a teeeeeriffic opportunidad for conjoined twins to play major league baseball here. Imagine if they’d cast Daisy and Violet Hilton in A League of their Own. But beyond that, MLB has become more and more “international” over the years. We’ve had Australian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and assorted Euro-players. It’s time for a pitcher-catcher duo from Siam, dontcha think?

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    • I think it just means he can’t pitch and hit in the same game. Which I don’t think he was doing much of anyways. Keep in mind this is not the official wording it’s just what leaked so it may be paraphrased. They are trying to avoid teams calling a left fielder to pitch to save someone else’s arm. Because it’s most likely that fielder will then get hurt and file an insurance claim.

      Basically he can’t come in to pitch relief on days he’s DHing.

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  3. 2 weeks until opening day, can’t get here soon enough.

    As a LLL (life-long lefty) I am protesting the 3 batter minimum. Loogy Lives Matter.

    The All Star election day, is that going to be popular vote or electoral college?

    I could see the player’s association pushing for a change to the current 6 years before free agency arrangement so more players can get to free agency before they get too far into their 27 – 32 prime years.

    Cancel the HR Derby, or maybe have leading minor league sluggers do it. $1M would be a huge incentive for them.

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      • They have to pitch to at least three hitters or to the end of the half inning, so he could come in with two outs to get the last out, but if he didn’t get his assigned lefty and the next hitter was a righty there would be no joy in Mudville.

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  4. As for the commercial breaks, Scout, TV ads have been getting shorter over the years anyway, so they can still pack a lot of product endorsement into 2 minutes.

    Interestingly, I subscribe to a podcast on advertising and marketing called “Under the Influence” and a recent episode discussed the history of commercial lengths. Apparently it was the advent of MTV that taught the directors of TV commercials that the younger generation has shorter attention spans and that more content can be crammed into fewer seconds. That is even truer in the modern world of Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. The average length of a TV spot over time has gone from 30 seconds to 15 seconds to about 6 seconds these days. Who knew?

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    • Yea, but you can still pack more endorsements into 2:30 than you can 2:00. I wonder if there’s some sort of study that’s starting to show that you are actually losing people with longer breaks, so the shorter break is better? Keep in mind this change will not only affect the MLB, but television and radio partners will suddenly have a whole lot ad space to sell. I really wonder what FOX and ESPN and such feel about this. Or is the extra 30 seconds not coming out of their end.

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      • All true, but remember most all commercials don’t actually provide relevant product information they just try to imbue an emotive impression favorable to their product. I suppose a quick hit might sometimes be more effective than something longer.

        But true one could cram in more ‘quick hits’ in two and a half minutes than in two minutes

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      • I don’t see how they will have more ad space to sell, at least during the game.

        One thing about televising live sports — and baseball especially — is that you don’t know how long it will last. It’s not like the networks can set aside 3 hours and plan that the game will fill 2:30 of that and leave them 30 minutes of advertising time to sell. The game takes as long as it takes and when it ends, so does the advertising time within it.

        Advertisers have been getting 2:20 minutes per half inning break, of which there are 17 in a 9-inning game and more in one that goes to extras. That’s a baseline of 39 minutes and 40 seconds of in-game ad time. This doesn’t include any unscheduled breaks due to pitching changes, injuries, etc. But there is no way to plan on a game going to extra innings or how many extra innings it will go, or how many pitching changes there will be, so baseball advertising has always been sort of off the cuff, with no guaranteed amount of advertising beyond the 2:20 per half inning. If the breaks are shortened to 2 minutes, then the guaranteed advertising time WITHIN the game drops to 34 minutes, for a time savings of 5 minutes and 40 seconds on the game length (not counting pitching change breaks). This time may be available to advertisers AFTER the shortened game, but not during it.

        Also, it is not only the networks’ advertising revenue that may be affected. There will also be less time between innings for people at the game, which could affect concession sales.

        Of course, TV and radio stations COULD opt to keep the ad space the same length and just delay the broadcast by 20 seconds per half inning compared to the live game. Follow the money…

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      • Since the local radio station subscribes to the 20-20 rule (the same 20 songs, played 20 times a day) and I refuse to shell out 15 bucks a month for Sirius/XM, have loaded a few seasons’ worth of podcasts on a USB stick and play them only in the car during my 20-minute drive to and from work. Since I’m already sitting, it doesn’t take any patience at all. Plus, Terry O’Reilly has a distinctive voice and a great sense of humour, which comes through in the podcasts.

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  5. Almost didn’t see, in your penultimate bullet point, the committee looking at tanking. This strategy was popularized in the NBA, and of course one pick (like Magic to the Lakers and Bird to the Celtics) can set up an era, even an epoch. Baseball, however, rarely gains an immediate impact player from a draft. The long season, too: NBA fans might endure a bad season knowing they can get 20 more wins out of a single high draft pick next year. For the Feesh, though, the reaction is “sheesh! You’re saying we MIGHT be good again in three or four years?” The point being draft picks are only a part of team development in MLB. Also, remember the story a few months ago about live attendance dropping last year? I did not do a study, but even the teams leading in attendance each year would likely see a dip when one of the tankers comes to town.

    The Angels have dropped from perennial post season play to also-ran seasons the last several years. I see fewer Angels flags on car windows – but game attendance, while down from the more successful years, is still pretty high (2 million + if I recall correctly). I think these sometimes endless seasons drag on more slowly when there are more meaningless games. What was that song about one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch?

    If they can adjust things to eliminate the incentives in tanking – less shared money, draft pick restriction, something to reduce the appeal of taking a few seasons off at the MLB level while the lower levels are rebuilt, that might be the most impactful change.

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  6. A question: is the forty man roster all in the union? As I recall players actually had to be major leaguers to join the union. It’s high time for the union to expand to include the entire group. Obviously sabermetrics have helped teams re-evaluate to value of long term contracts. There’s truckloads of cash involved. If that cash isn’t going to 38 year old DHs and 1Bs far past their prime (looking at you, Pujols) get to into younger hands. Faster path to free agency obviously, but getting those AAA players that are an injury away from MLB minimum pay some big money now is also a smart move. And a higher minimum in general. The teams take in hundreds of millions while paying multiple team members less than a million. That high end union member is vanishing, so build up the lower level.

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