How the new rules for Major League Baseball 2017 look in real games
The Most Important Rule Change in the 2017 MLB Season
By now, everyone knows about the rule changes enacted for the 2017 MLB season. For the most part, they are not very exciting.
Three of the changes involve speeding up the process of replay challenges. Considering the median turnaround time for replay reviews was less than two minutes (1:36), these rules serve only to prohibit outliers. Their impact will be negligible.
Three other rule changes involve positioning of base coaches (They must stay in the box until the ball is in play.), a new balk rule (Pitchers cannot take two steps toward home plate.), and prohibiting markers on the field to help players position themselves.
The One We’ll Notice
baseball purists are lamenting the seventh change: the no-pitch intentional walk rule. Managers simply need to signal their intention to the home plate umpire, who will send the batter to first base.
Gone are the days of errant tosses sailing past catchers or drifting close enough to the plate to be plunked into right field.
There were less than 1,000 intentional walks last year (in 4856 games), so the IBB rule will have little to no effect on the speed of most games.
At least it gives those fans still debating the designated hitter rule something else to complain about.
What About the Other Changes?
Back in December, other rules changed as part of baseball’s new collecting bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA usually deals with boring contract rules, salary issues and player safety guidelines.
For instance, this year’s CBA bans the use of smokeless tobacco for all new players. This is a nice start, but unfortunately, it allows current players to continue their habit.
The 2017 All-Star Game will no longer decide home field advantage for the World Series. The CBA included the removal of what was supposed to motivate a more competitive atmosphere at the annual classic.
The Other One We’ll Notice
MLB and the players’ union also decided to maintain the 25-man rosters. This means that teams opting to travel with 12 or 13 pitchers will continue to play with a short bench.
Last season, the National League alone used 334 different players in 3,290 pinch-hitting at-bats. How much higher that number would be if the managers had more players on the bench is anybody’s guess, but there were 38 times that managers were desperate enough to use pitchers as pinch-hitters.
This brings us to the last change to MLB rules. The 2017 season will see the return of the ten-day disabled list, replacing the previous 15-day DL.
Why That’s a Big Deal
There are two big reasons the shorter disabled list will matter. First is its potential for managing the roster of position players and the other is its large impact on starting pitching.
With the current trend toward shorter starting pitching stints and one-inning or one-batter relief specialists, rosters include more pitchers than ever before.
Gone are the days of ten-man pitching staffs and 15 position players. Most teams carry at least twelve pitchers. At least two teams had 14 pitchers on their opening day roster!
This leavesless players on the bench to use as pinch-hitters or defensive specialists.
Managers are learning to deal with the decreased flexibility of this roster mix. Marginal hitters who can cover multiple defensive positions are more likely to find a roster spot than a power-hitting, fielding-challenged veteran is.
When a position player needs a few games to rest because of a minor injury or fatigue, it has a much stronger effect on the coach’s options. If there is more than one dinged-upplayer, it can be a real problem.
Knowing a player will miss only ten days (not necessarily ten games) will probably make the disabled list a more attractive option for teams with players in need of a breather.
Those Managers Are Always Thinking…
Consider this bit of game strategy from last season. The New York Mets entered a game with two outfielders resting injuries. They had already used their three remaining position players before the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Marlins realized there was no player available to pinch-hit; so theywalked Curtis Granderson with two outs and a runner on to deal with a pitcher.
The Mets’ Jacob deGrom batted for the other pitcher. He hits well for a pitcher, but he is still a pitcher. The Mets’ threat was thwarted when deGrom popped up to third.
If the Mets disabled either of their two aching starters, they would have had another proven bat on the bench to foil the Marlins’ strategy.
And What About Those Pitchers?
Pitchers will almost certainly see more time on the disabled list during the season. How many times do we see pitchers skip a start to rest a malady or simply regroup for a stretch run?
With the ten-day DL option, teams can remove those pitchers from the roster without missing more than that one planned start. Better yet, they can replace them with an able-bodied pitcher (or batter) for that period.
How? Remember, this is a ten-day stint, not a ten-game DL. With just one day off, a starting pitcher can go on a DL the day after his last start. Then there are his four rest days, a team day off, a missed start, four more days of rest and voila! He is back to start on day 11 as scheduled.
Without a day off, the manager has the option of moving up one pitcher and slotting the returning pitcher into the next game or using a spot starter on day ten and giving the entire staff an extra day’s rest by letting the returning pitcher start on day 11.
This rule change opens all kinds of better scenarios for managing pitchers.
Here’s the Happy Recap
Time will determine whether the other rule changes are good or bad for the game. Maybe a manager will miss a challenge opportunity because of the 30-second rule. The All-Star Game may regress in entertainment value.
Balk rules will continue to confuse us all and die-hard fans will wail about the missed delights of an intentional walk gone awry.
Nevertheless, the ten-day DL rule will definitely have an immediate impact on strategy and outcomes. It is arguably the most impactful MLB rule change in many years.
Thanks for reading our blog!
If you are a serious sports fan, be sure to checkout our Custom Athletic posters, your color, your sport, your name!