MLB To Implement New Rule Changes For Upcoming 2020 Season
After the MLB and the players’ union agreed to rule changes in March 2019, the league announced Wednesday that their implementation of those new rules will be in effect when spring training starts and will also be applied in the upcoming 2020 season. Changes include a three-batter minimum for pitchers before they can be subbed out, increased roster size, and new rules for position players who also pitch.
The three-batter minimum is without question the biggest change that will impact a manager’s ability to change pitchers to face a certain batter which we usually see in playoff scenarios. Going forward pitchers must face a minimum of three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning with exceptions made for injured players or illness. Rule 5.10(f) states “that the starting pitcher must pitch to one batter until that batter is put out or reaches base, and Rule 5.10(g) states that any reliever must pitch to one batter until that batter is put out or reaches base, or the offensive team is put out.”
According to Elias Sports Research, 649 appearances by pitchers in 2019 would not have been allowed under the current rule. A manager’s decision to replace a pitcher will be more critical than ever, especially when you consider the frequency of pitchers being replaced late in games in order to have a left-handed pitcher face a left-handed batter or a right-handed pitcher benefiting from facing a right-handed batter.
Increased roster size:
Another alteration will be the increase of active players on a roster from 25 to 26 through August 31 and the playoffs. Teams will also be required to have 28 players on their roster by September 1, formerly teams could hold up to 40 players. This prevents a team from carrying 20 extra pitchers that was prevalent in recent years, which added to more pitching changes and slowing down the pace of the game.
Two-way player designation:
Going forward players must be designated as position players, pitchers or two-way players, the latter defined as position players who also pitch. Position players will not be permitted to pitch in games unless the teams are separated by seven runs or if the game is in extra innings. If someone is designated as a two-way player they are allowed to stay on the roster and pitch in games without counting towards the league’s 13 pitcher limit. According to MLB writer David Adler, more than 50 position players pitched in games during 2019 in order to give their normal pitchers rest during blowout games.
To qualify for two-way eligibility, a player must have pitched at least 20 innings and started at least 20 games as a position player in the prior or current season. Pitchers are allowed to be position players, such as Shohei Ohtani who served as a designated hitter while pitching in 2018 before receiving season-ending Tommy John surgery.