Yesterday afternoon, Major League Baseball announced the rule changes that will go into effect in 2019 and 2020. While some changes were made to speed up pace of play, we can all be thankful that the pitch clock will not be implemented until at least 2021.
2019 Rule Changes
The time between innings was previously 2:05 in local games and 2:25 in national games. Starting in 2019, the time between innings will be reduced to 2:00 in all games. The Commissioner’s office has the power to reduce inning breaks to 1:55 in 2020.
I am in favor of this change. I hate commercials and believe this is the best way to shorten games. In local games, this will save between 80 and 85 seconds per game. In local games, 420-425 seconds will be saved per game. This doesn’t seem like much, but when you add it up over the course of a 162-game season, anywhere between 3 hours 36 minutes and 19 hours 7 minutes will be saved in a year. This means that starting this year, between 3-19 hours of our lives will be spared from watching commercials.
For years, there have been two trade deadlines in baseball. The first, called the “non-waiver” trade deadline, was on July 31. After this date came the waiver trade period where players could be placed on waivers then traded. This came to an end on August 31 with the “waiver” trade deadline. After this point, although players could still be traded, no traded players would be eligible for the playoffs. But starting in 2019, there will only be one trade deadline on July 31.
Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m in favor or opposed to this one. July 31 does seem like an early deadline for a team to decide if they have a chance at making the postseason. But at the same time, there really is no point in having two separate trade deadlines. So I guess that we’ll just have to wait and see how this turns out.
All Star Game
In previous years, there were two rounds of voting. The first round was a free-for-all vote for any player in the Major Leagues. In 2018, fans were not limited in the number of ballots they could cast. The second round was called the “final vote.” In this round, fans picked from 5 players in each league and voted to fill the final All-Star roster spot.
Starting this year, there will be a primary round where one player per position per team will be nominated to the All-Star ballot. Then on an election day in June or July, fans will vote for the All-Stars. The top 3 vote-getters and each position in each league will participate in the All-Star game.
The All-Star game is meant to be fun for fans, but not turn in to an extra-inning affair. Because this game has no actual value beyond league pride, teams don’t want their players risking injury any longer than the 9 innings. So as a change, starting in the tenth inning, each extra-inning will be started with a runner on second base.
This rule changes makes a lot of sense. Extra-innings of an All-Star game can be boring because players are more concerned with staying healthy than with winning the game. As long as starting extra innings with a runner on second stays in
Home Run Derby
The winner of the Home Run Derby will now be awarded $1 Million. This should cause more players to want to participate in the competition. It should also make the night itself more competitive. Just think about it, when Aaron Judge won in 2017, he was making well under $1 Million. So if we have more young players, such as Ronald Acuña Jr, Juan Soto, Vladimir Gurrerro, and Fernando Tatis Jr. involved, this could be a very interesting event.
The number of mound visits in a standard 9-inning game will be reduced from 6 to 5. This one isn’t a big deal. I was panicking about the mound visits rule last year, but it only took a couple months before I realized it wasn’t actually a big deal. Just like last year, by the time June comes, we won’t even be thinking about it.
2020 Rule Changes
The changes coming in 2020 are a bit more dramatic so MLB has given teams an extra year to adjust. We don’t really know what kind of unintended consequences these rule changes will bring about. This will make 2020 a very interesting year.
Active Roster Expansions
Starting in 2020, rosters between opening day and August 31 will be expanded from 25 to 26 men. From September 1 to the end of the season, rosters will be expanded to 28 men. In double-headers, active rosters will be expanded to 27 men.
Starting in 2020, teams will be limited to a certain number of pitchers. Although the number has not yet been determined, estimates have been placed around 12 or 13 pitchers. In order to enforce this, players will be labeled as either hitters or pitchers on opening day. Once labeled, position players are not permitted to pitch except under specific circumstances.
These roster changes will be interesting to see. I’m in favor of placing an extra man on the roster because it will allow for even more strategy. As far as pitching limits, I think I’m in favor of it. As a baseball purist, I don’t like seeing 10 different pitchers in any given 9-inning game. This should help limit this.
Three Batter Minimum
Starting in 2020, pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters in each outing. The only exceptions are for injuries and when the inning ends.
This will have a huge change on the game. While in the past I’ve advocated this change, I have mixed feelings on this rule. I feel like this will have too large an impact on the strategy of the game. This is also going to basically eliminate the one-batter specialists. Now that a bunch of relievers’ jobs are on the line, I’m not so convinced this is a good change.
So these are the rule changes going into effect in 2019 and 2020. Thankfully, there will be no pitch clock. And in even better news, MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to continue to meet and continue discussions.