Major League Baseball dropped a bomb on Wednesday when it announced new rule changes that will take effect in a few weeks. The most talked-about now and in the future will be the newly announced three-batter minimum for every pitcher that enters a game. That rule has a chance to blow up in baseball's face.
The new rule reads as follows:
"The Official Baseball Rules have been amended to require the starting or any relief pitcher to pitch to a minimum of three batters, including the batter then at bat (or any substitute batter), until such batters are put out or reach base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness, which in the umpire crew chief's judgment, incapacitates him from further play as a pitcher. The three-batter minimum will become effective in 2020 Spring Training beginning on Thursday, March 12th."
First off, Major League Baseball's communications team needs to work on run-on sentences. Sheesh. Second, I think we can all see the fairly large loophole here.
Teams that need to get pitchers out before facing a third batter will just have their pitchers fake injuries. What's to stop them from doing so? It's now up to the umpire crew chief to make the call on whether an injury is real or not-- and what umpire is going to tell a pitcher he has to continue to pitch? Umpires aren't trainers. They can't adequately diagnose injuries. If they make a bad call and force an injured pitcher to continue, it would be an enormous scandal.
I get what baseball is doing here. They don't want anyone to mimic Tony LaRussa's strategy of changing pitchers for every at-bat. They don't want teams bringing in their lefty specialists for one batter, then yanking them for another, thus grinding games to a complete halt. This is all about pace of play and limiting breaks.
That said, this is poorly conceived. This setup is just begging for an embarrassing incident that will blow up in the league's face.
The rest of the rule changes can be found below: