Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have announced new rule changes coming to the 2019, and 2020 seasons. One impactful change won’t come until the 2020 season. That change will be the minimum batters faced rule for pitchers. The rule change has a major flaw which could leave a sour taste for MLB fans.
2019 Rule Changes
Inning breaks will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 in local games, and from 2:25 to 2:00 in national games. (The Office of the Commissioner retains the right to reduce the inning breaks to 1:55 in local and national games for the 2020 season.) This rule change won’t affect the game for the player or the fan but may have implications for advertisers. This rule is subject to discussions with broadcast partners.
The number of mound visits will be reduced from six visits to five. The mound visit rule has had a drastic effect on baseball. In 2017, before the rule was implemented there were about 7.41 mound visits per game according to Forbes. The average dropped to 3.78 mound visits per game in 2018 suggesting a reduction from six to five visits shouldn’t impact the game any more than the original rule.
Exceptions to Mound Visits
- Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather.
- To check on a potential injury.
- After the announcement of an offensive substitution.
- Normal communication between a player and pitcher that doesn’t require either to vacate his position on the field.
- If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have the discretion to grant a brief visit at the catcher’s request if a cross-up has occurred between the pitcher and catcher.
- Teams receive an additional visit for every extra inning played.
Trade Deadline: Waiver trades after the July 31st deadline will be eliminated. Players may still be able to be placed and claimed on outright waivers after July 31st. This will officially end waiver trades which has been one of the most confusing rules in the MLB.
- A team usually places a player on waivers once; if they do it a second time, they are barred from pulling back the waiver. If a player goes unclaimed after 48 hours, then he has “cleared” waivers. His team can then trade him.
- There were over 20 waiver trades made in 2018 according to MassLive.com. This rule change will force teams to become more active during the July 31st deadline and could have major consequences for contending teams late in the season.
All-Star Game fan voting will be conducted in two rounds. During the “Primary Round,” each Club will nominate one player per eligible position (three outfielders), who will be voted on by fans. In late June or early July, an “Election Day” will be held in which the top three vote-getters at each position in each League during the Primary Round (including the top nine outfielders) will be voted on by fans during a prescribed time period to determine the All-Star Game starters. This rule change ought to prevent fan-favorite players who have either underperformed or spent most of the season on the disabled list from reaching the All-Star game based on popularity.
All-Star Game Changes
- Both Clubs will start the 10th inning of the All-Star Game, and each subsequent inning, with a runner on second base (re-entry substitutions allowed for runners). This rule change will add excitement to the game and may end the possibility of a tie.
2020 Rule Changes
The active roster limit will increase from 25 to 26, and the minimum number of active players will increase from 24 to 25. The current Major League Rules allowing for a 26th player for doubleheaders will be amended to allow for a 27th player. This rule change will strengthen MLB bullpens as well as hitting power from the bench from opening day until August 31st. It will also allow managers to easier keep a speedster on the bench for clutch baserunning needs.
Additional Roster Changes
- Elimination of 40-man active roster limit in September. From September 1 through the end of the championship season, all Clubs must carry 28 players on the active roster. This rule change will have a major impact on September call ups as the MLB playoff race intensifies. It will also limit a team’s ability to call up minor league prospects for experience at the MLB level. This rule may have extensive implications for player development.
- The number of pitchers a Club may carry on the active roster will be capped at a number determined by the joint committee made up between the MLB and the MLBPA. Each player must be designated a pitcher or a position player, and cannot change at any point in the season or postseason. Two-way players are an exception to this rule, however, to qualify as a two-way player that person must pitch at least 20 innings, and start at least 20 games as a position player or designated hitter.
Minimum Number of Batters for Pitchers
Starting pitchers and relievers must pitch to either a minimum of three batters or the end of a half-inning (with exceptions for incapacitating injury or illness). This rule will have a huge impact on baseball but contains a loophole that may be exploited. Much like in football or soccer when players fake injuries to slow down the game, a pitcher may now be encouraged to fake an injury to allow for a substitute before the batter minimum is reached. Injuries are an exception to this rule as well as the mound visit rule.
The minimum placement period for pitchers on the Injured List shall increase from 10 days to 15 days, and the minimum assignment period of pitchers who are optionally assigned to the minors will increase from 10 days to 15 days. Teams may be more inclined to keep an injured player on the active roster instead of calling up a replacement. This rule will make it tougher on managers to make roster decisions and has the potential to temporarily lower a team’s chance to compete.