Major League Baseball is implementing a three-batter minimum for pitchers in 2020, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The Atlantic League is using the rule experimentally this season. This signals a bold new reality for baseball. The era of the one-out, or one-batter reliever is coming to a close.
And, honestly, I can’t say I’ll miss it.
The move aims to speed up the game by eliminating the bevy of pitching changes which have become routine. It will force managers to manage differently, and to learn new strategy. One should appreciate this stepping over the line in the sand. This signals that MLB and the players are willing to tinker with the true DNA of the game in the interest of bettering the viewing experience.
The knee-jerk reaction from the get-off-my-lawn-crew is that it fundamentally alters baseball. The proper rebuttal?
Some things need to change. A parade of relievers meandering in from the bullpen is not worth fighting for. It’s not sacred ground to defend. It’s not an extreme idea, either, as this style of play is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Full disclosure: I’m surprised how totally fine I am with the new rule. There are certain things baseball fans should hold on dearly to.
Human umpires. A static lineup. The ability to position fielders wherever best suits the defense.
It’s tough to spark the same type of passion for a situational lefty’s right to come in, throw one pitch, then hit the showers. Perhaps a big part of that is because strategy is being replaced by different strategy, not taken away completely.
Now, there are some immediate questions that come to mind. Will this be in effect during the postseason (it shouldn’t) and what will the penalty be if a pitcher is unable to make it three batters? Are we going to see a spate of dubious injuries as a work-around?
Surely, the Serious Minds who worked on this have thought through all the contingencies. Maybe, just maybe, they know what they’re doing. I’m fine with seeing things play out.