Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced a series of rule changes that will begin in the next two seasons, and each change comes with mixed reviews.
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is welcoming of changes that speed up the pace of the game or each individual at-bat, but there’s one that particularly irks him: the three-batter minimum for pitchers.
Starting in the 2020 season, the league is expected to implement the new rule with exceptions made for pitchers who finish an inning or suffer an injury. The MLBPA did not agree to this particular rule change, although the Commissioner’s Office has the power to enforce the rule anyway, and the league’s announcement said that the MLBPA “will not grieve or otherwise challenge.”
“The other stuff looked OK to me,” Maddon said to the media on Thursday. “I’m OK with the other stuff. I’m standing by that one. Whenever you impact strategy, I don’t like that. The pace of the game, I’m all about it. The length of the game, I don’t think it really matters. Strategy should be left alone.”
The three-batter minimum would likely impact the Cubs more than most teams because of Maddon’s cavalier bullpen usage. Cubs relievers made 600 appearances last season, pacing the National League, and they were one of eight teams to have relievers average less than an inning per appearance.
Maddon’s strategy could also change come 2020 because active rosters will expand from 25 to 26 players. The league is expected to set a maximum number of pitchers a team can carry, which could be as low as 13 or 12. (The Cubs carried 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster for most of last season.)
However, the notion that rule changes should not be made if they affect strategy is somewhat silly. Strategies exist because of the rules of the game. Fortunately for Maddon, he’ll have over a year to figure out how he will deal with the potential demise of the LOOGY.
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