The Major League Baseball season will open Thursday, March 26, 2020. With the upcoming season there will be rule changes in five categories as was announced by the MLB on Wednesday.
All but one, manager's challenge time, had been previously reported prior to yesterday. However, with concentration on the off-season free agency and trades, this is a review of what is now in stone for the 2020. *This does not include 'home plate robots' or a pitcher's time clock.
CATEGORIES ARE AS FOLLOWS:
Three-batter minimum for pitchers
The 27th man
Adjustments to the injured list and option periods
Reduction in time for manager's to challenge a play
THREE-BATTER MINIMUM for pitchers was discussed as far back as the latter portion of the 2019 season. This change is the only one that affects play on the field and the rule will go into effect during Spring Training games beginning March 12.
This pertains to all pitchers, starters and relievers, and each must face a minimum of three hitters or finish the inning before coming out of a game. Exception: Injury or illness that may affect a pitcher from completing the 'requirement'.
"Pace of Play" ear-tag. This rule for the most part focuses on specialty relievers. No more one pitcher - one hitter in late inning play. As we have seen, a left-handed pitcher (nickname "LOOGY" for "left-handed one-out guy) is brought in to face a lefty at the plate. Then another switch is made. Essentially, no more micro-managing the bullpen eliminating extra time that is given for the switch. This also effects (what I have referred to as the 'New Era Baseball') teams using a reliever to begin a game, in an effort to 'take care of' the top-of-the-order. The designated reliever, 'the opener', must face the top three, even if all well laid out plans go south, before the regular starter replaces him.
ROSTER LIMITS has five parts to the new rule:
26-man rosters. What was the customary 25-man roster, now becomes a 26-man roster for the regular season up until August 31 and postseason. Maximum pitchers on the roster will be 13.
Smaller rosters in September. We won't see a maximum of 40 players made available in the fall beginning in 2020. MLB has reduced the number to 28, with a max. of 14 pitchers. Not all teams placed the full amount on their rosters in September leaving room for add-on's if they felt it necessary. Supposedly (another "Pace of Play" ear-tag) games became longer in the last month of the regular season with increased use of relievers and pinch-hitters for certain situations not used with the 'normal' roster size. Now, they won't have that luxury, which cuts into call-ups from the affiliated minor leagues. Definitely will be a very selective decision made.
Two-way player designation. Breakdown - 'a two-way player' who hits and pitches. Now, is to be officially designated as such. Once listed as a 'TWP', the player remains so until the end of the season. This allows them to stay on the roster as 'position and pitcher' and does not affect the 13-pitcher limit. In my opinion, this was 'birthed' in lieu of Angels' Shohei Ohtani, starter/designated hitter. And, Reds' Michael Lorenzen, reliever/outfielder. Since the days of Babe Ruth has the MLB seen a two-way player, until the arrival of Japan native Ohtani in 2018.
There are stipulations to qualify as a TWP for the upcoming MLB season based on a players 2018 and 2019 stats. 1-Must have pitched, minimum, 20 innings in the majors. 2-Must have started at least 20 games as a position player or DH (batting 3 or more times). Yes, by including the 2018 season, this accommodates the Angels' Ohtani. He made his debut March 2018, but missed most of 2019 with required Tommy John's surgery.
Position players pitching are allowed to pitch (adhering to the 3-hitter min.) "only if a game goes into extra innings' ~ OR ~ winning/losing by more than six runs. Therefore, a creative allowance for the teams in a 'rout' situation to help 'save arms' of the bullpen. In a regulation nine inning game, common sense leaving no gray area - only the designated 13 pitchers or TWP players allowed. Last season, to me a surprising number, 50 different position players pitched in at least one game.
THE 27th MAN. Since the bump in the roster number to 26. Now in a double-header situation the count may go to 27 and teams are allowed to 'call-up' a pitcher giving a team 14 on the roster.
INJURED LIST AND OPTION PERIODS returns to 15-Day IL in some cases. Pitchers and TWP cannot be reinstated for 15 days once placed on the injury list. The past two seasons the length of time had been reduced to 10. Position players will remain with the 10-Day IL when injured and necessity dictates.
CHALLENGE TIME reduces the 30 seconds a manager had previously to decide 'to challenge' a call. Managers and assistants will now only have 20 seconds to review video, with the manager alerting the home plate umpire with his request. So hopefully ~ no glitch in their video system. Part of the forever changes to improve "Pace of Play". And I'll stop there.
ROBOTS AND TIME CLOCKS
*The age of electronic technology, AKA: Home Plate Robots (not really), has been tested and changes have evolved in the past season in a lower level of the Atlantic Minor League; and, reportedly will be used in the MiLB 2020. Also, even though we won't see the "electronic strike zone" in the MLB games for awhile, the technology will be used in certain MLB Spring games in 2020.
The 20-second pitching time clock has been used in college baseball and the minors since 2015. This will not be a time piece to be used in the majors any time soon. However, it was used in MLB Spring training games in 2019. So, I expect to see it back this Spring, also.
The above mentioned 2020 Rule Change information comes from an article published on Wednesday by David Adler, MLB reporter.
Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter, @elichap822.