Yesterday, MLB announced a slew of rule changes to be implemented for the upcoming 2019 season and the 2020 season. For 2019, the changes include shortening the breaks between innings, reducing mound visits, modifying the trade deadline, and updates around the All Star Game. 2020 changes include changes to the active roster, the minimum number of batters a pitcher must face, and increasing the time pitchers must spend either on the injured list or in the minor leagues when optioned.
The breaks between innings will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 for local games, and from 2:25 to 2:00 for national games. This should remove between one and a half minutes to 7 and a half minutes of dead time from every game, shortening game times across the league. Of course, the fine print says that these changes are “subject to discussions with broadcast partners”, which means, nationally, FOX, ESPN, and TBS need to be aligned with losing over 7 minutes of their commercial inventory. Which, frankly, seems unlikely.
The number of mound visits is being reduced from 6, which was first introduced last season, to 5. Since the limit of 6 affected exactly zero teams in 2018, this doesn’t seem to be much of a change and shouldn’t have much, if any, impact.
The trade deadline is staying put on July 31st, but trade waivers, the archaic system by which trades enacted after the trade deadline, will be eliminated. Players may continue to be placed and claimed on outright waivers after July 31st, but players may not be traded after that date. This means buyers and sellers will need to make a final call on their season a month earlier than they do now. There is also some thought that this will help with the service time manipulation of young phenoms, as injured and ineffective players will no longer be able to be replaced from the outside over the final two months of the season.
Voting for the All Star Game is being changed, with fan voting conducted in two rounds. Each team will nominate one player per position (three outfielders), who will be voted on by fans during the first, “Primary Round”. In late June or early July, the top three vote-getters at each position during the Primary Round will be voted on by fans to determine the All Star Game starters, in what is currently being called “Election Day”. Final details on the new fan voting format will be announced sometime in April. Bonus payments will be given to the top three vote-getters at each position per league during the Primary Round (top six for outfielders). Additionally, the prize money awarded to players on the winning All Star team will be increased. None of this really should have any effect on the game itself, unless the new bonuses and increased prize money is substantial enough to make the players take winning the exhibition more seriously.
The big change is that, in the case of extra innings at the All Star Game, both teams will start the 10th inning, and each subsequent inning, with a runner on second base, with re-entry substitutions allowed for the runners. This follows changes made in hockey and college football, where, when a game “ends” in a tie, you change the rules of the game to determine a winner. I’m not a fan of this type of change, as it fundamentally changes how the game is played. If it stays in the realm of exhibition games, where the goal is more to finish the game without anyone getting hurt, I can live with that. I would hate to ever see this implemented during regular season, or post-season, play.
The final change for 2019 is an increase in prize money for the Home Run Derby, up to $2.5 million with the winner receiving $1 million. Maybe this reduces the number of players turning down the derby? As someone who doesn’t care about the derby, this does nothing to move my needle.
The changes due to take effect for the 2020 season include the following: Continue reading →