In the classic prison camp movie, “Cool Hand Luke,” Dragline (George Kennedy) informs Luke, (Paul Newman) “We got rules here.” Paraphrasing that quote, that’s what baseball has told the minor leagues, “We got experimental rules here.”
Baseball has heard the cries for more action and shorter games.
First, there was the automatic intentional walk. Then came the three-batter minimum rule and limiting mound visits. Last season, we had the man on second to start extra innings, 7-inning doubleheaders and a Universal DH.
Now, baseball’s “scientists” have gone back to the laboratory to come up with some experimental rules that will be implemented along the landscape of minor league baseball in 2021. The idea is to increase the action and the popularity of the sport which has taken somewhat of a hit in recent years. When you break down these experimental rules, you come to realize that some of the issues that baseball is trying to address, have developed as a result of the influx of all this new data and new philosophies that have infiltrated the sport.
The new minor league structure in 2021 will have four levels: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A ball. Each level will feature a different experimental rule.
At Triple-A, the size of the base will increase from 15 to 18 inches. The idea is to limit collisions but the belief is that with a larger base, the chances of being successful with a stolen base or a ground ball or bunt would increase, although that would be a slight uptick.
Double-A: No infielders will be allowed to positions themselves on the outfield grass. All four infielders would have to be positioned with both feet on the infield dirt. Reportedly, the second half of the season may see the shift eliminated altogether as teams would have to position two players on each side of second base.
High-A: This experimental rule would essentially eliminate the advantage that left handed pitchers have, as opposed to a right-hander with a runner on base. Pitchers would have to step off the rubber to make a pick off throw. The rule was used during the 2019 Atlantic League season and there was an increase in stolen base attempts’
For experimental rule purposes, Low-A is being divided into three tiers.
All Low-A Leagues: Pitchers will be limited to two pick off attempts per plate appearance. If a third attempt is made, it would have to be successful, otherwise, it’s a balk and the runner or runners would advance. Reportedly, a limitation of one pick off per plate appearance is being contemplated.
Low-A Southeast will be using an automated strike zone and Low-A West will have a pitch clock.
If the size of the base is increased, that will shorten the traditional 90’ feet by a few inches between bases. Certainly, that could spell the difference in whether you’re safe or out. Collisions have already been limited with the rule that you can’t “take out” an infielder to break up double plays.
The number of stolen bases has lessened because players just don’t run as much as they used to. The belief is that the risk of a runner being thrown out is not worth the reward of a successful steal.
I have my qualms with the shift, especially with a man on first. To me, the shift makes it more difficult to turn a double play. It also penalizes players who hit the ball hard.
I’m okay with pitchers having to step off the rubber.
I understand wanting to limit pick off attempts to two per plate appearance, but their proposed penalty for a third, unsuccessful try is too harsh. It should not be a balk. A ball should be called instead.
No surprise that Jacob deGrom looks great this spring. He’s pitching like he’s headed towards a third NL Cy Young Award, but the one drawback is that deGrom can only pitch once every five games or so.
That puts pressure on the Mets to win those starts.
Let’s say deGrom makes 32 starts this season. Even if the two time Cy Young winner does not actually get the win, (as has been the case throughout his career) the Mets will need to win approximately 2/3 of deGrom’s starts in order to have a strong chance at reaching the post season.
Luis Guillorme’s 22-pitch at bat was epic, even in a spring training game, but from Jordan Hicks’ point of view, it was still a spring training game.
For the early games in spring training, the 3-batter minimum rule was waived. The rule was in effect in Sunday’s Cardinals/Mets game, but with all the safety protocols in place, why wasn’t Hicks allowed to just be taken out of the game without going through the on the field protocols.
Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 but opted out of last season as he suffers from Type 1 Diabetes. The first real batter he faces in two years happens to result in an extremely strenuous 12 minutes of pitching. It’s a spring training game, common sense should prevail. Taking him out should not have been an issue.
So what does it mean that Gio Urshela is taking reps at shortstop. It could mean Tyler Wade’s spot on the roster is in jeopardy. It could also mean the Yankees are covering all bases if Gleyber Torres gets hurt or struggles defensively. Wade doesn’t give you a whole lot offensively and, despite his versatility, he’s not exactly gold glove material in the field.