Baseball will have a new look in 2020. Roster limits will be expanded from 25 to 26 players and there will be a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers.
The new rule governing the use of relievers will create some controversy but should also provide a brand new “water cooler type” debate over how the managers will implement this new regulation.
The rule states that a reliever has to face a minimum of three batters, or only 2 or 1 if they end the inning. What this does is eliminate using more than two relievers in an inning, provided they get the outs. It also eliminates the option of the one-batter specialists, which in most cases, is a left handed pitcher.
The perilous and tricky part will be when a reliever starts an inning. What if he is not getting outs and has to face three hitters (if he’s not injured) who have either gotten on base, or already scored and there are no outs in the inning before the manager can make a move. That little sequence can potentially decide a game.
Angels Mgr Joe Maddon has pointed out (something that I’ve written about before) that the new rule will make for some tougher decisions for the managers.
Let’s offer a hypothetical situation. Imagine a reliever entering the game to start the top of the 7th inning. For argument’s sake, this particular reliever, who, lets say has had his struggles, is brought on to keep the game at a two run deficit. He walks the first hitter he faces on four pitches and the home fans begin to get restless and start to orate their frustration. He then gives up a two-run home run. This reliever is now getting mercilessly booed by the home fans. The manager and every one watching, knows this pitcher “doesn’t have it” but he has to stay in and face another hitter. It won’t be a pretty scene.
Pitchers are going to be groomed to face both lefties and righty hitters but it may also reshape a team’s roster. If pitchers become more versatile, the need to carry so many may not be that much of a factor. Teams may want to increase the bench depth (carry a 3rd catcher i.e.) that could counteract the three batter minimum imposed on the relievers.
Billy Martin and some of the other great managers of the past were noted for their ability to be an “inning or two ahead.” In 2020, the managers will need to be a little bit of a fortune teller.
There are some quality bullpen arms still on the free agent market. Are you listening, New York Mets? According to SNY’s Andy Martino, it doesn’t appear as if the Mets have any interest in Dellin Betances. That’s a mistake. Will Harris is another arm worth taking a chance on. The former Astro is 35 years old but would be an inexpensive get.
If the Mets intend to go into 2020 with the same cast in the bullpen, that will be a mistake as well.
If I may paraphrase the ol’ Abbott and Costello, “Who’s on First” routine, ‘Who’s on third’ for the Mets. Is it Jeff McNeil, is it J.D. Davis or Jed Lowrie (yes, he’s still on the roster) or another name that no one knows yet.
Pete Alonso is set at first, Amed Rosario (despite those crazy rumors for Francisco Lindor) is the shortstop and Robinson Cano will likely start the season at second, but third remains up in the air. Those decisions need to be made before the start of spring training.
At this time, the Yankees projected lineup for Opening Day features one left handed hitter, Brett Gardner.
I’ve been pointing out the need for a left handed hitter since the off season ended. The Yankees are making a mistake if they think they can get past October without some solid left handed bats in the lineup.
The Yankees have reportedly shown interest in 2B Joe Panik, a left handed hitter, but as I’ve suggested before, 1B/DH Mitch Moreland would be a nice fit.
You can make an argument that the reason the Yankees lost in the last three post-seasons was due to a lack of clutch hitting. It was strikingly apparent last season, but it also showed up in both 2017 and 2018.
In 2017, the Yankees scored three runs in four games in Houston. In 2018, they were a clutch hit away from beating the Red Sox in games 1 and 4. So does it seem like the Yankees have trouble getting a clutch hit in October. One factor could be their lack of balance.
The Yankees like to say they’ve got right handed hitters that can take advantage of the short right field porch and friendly dimensions at Yankee Stadium on that side of the field. That is partly true, but that production hasn’t played well on the road.
Those right handed hitters also have a lot to prove including Aaron Judge. Let me preface my remarks by saying, this is in no way an indictment on Judge as a person, he is a quality human being. As far as his play on the field, for one thing, Judge has to prove he can stay on the field. He’s missed 110 games in the past two seasons and his post season production was not very good last year. Judge hit 1 HR and drove in 2 runs in 9 post season games.
Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez are also under the gun as the Yankees have amped up the pressure of winning with their acquisition of Gerrit Cole.
The Yankees need to back up Sanchez with a quality #2 catcher. Erik Kratz is not the answer and they’ve missed out on Martin Maldonado who re-signed with the Astros. Even though he was promised a starting job, I feel like Austin Romine would’ve taken the same deal to come back to the Yankees as the #2. Romine could give you a big hit now and then. Will Kyle Higashioka be able to do so?
Speaking of Cole, adding him to a 103 win team, doesn’t mean the Yankees will increase their regular season win total.
Too many pundits are just plugging Cole into what happened last season. They’re making an assumption that the same factors will exist in 2020. There’s an ol’ saying, ‘Assumptions are the mother of all screw ups.”
No one knows if Gio Urshela is the real deal and will duplicate or even come close to duplicating last year’s production. Same for Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford and players like that. The Yankees could win less regular season games with Cole on the team, but the priority remains winning in October.
Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com