MLB Rule Change: The Three-Batter Minimum

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In his increasing effort to condense a nine-inning baseball game into a 30-minute time frame, Commissioner Rob Manfred has made yet another rule. Beginning this season, MLB rules will change to include a three-batter minimum for pitchers.

While it may help draw a new crowd of people that can’t pay attention for five solid minutes, it’s also going to cause a lot of issues. Manfred unilaterally passed this rule, much to the dismay of those it’s going to affect.

Increased Injuries

In addition to speeding up the game, you’re also likely to see increased injuries. As written, the rule states that a pitcher must now face three batters or finish an inning, unless hurt or injured.

So, what stops a player or coach from feigning injury? Just retire a man, then claim cramps or an arm injury. Problem solved. Well, because MLB has thought ahead, and added additional rules.

Baseball has also changed the rules surrounding it’s IL (formerly known as the DL or disabled list). The rules now state that any injury (real or not) warrants a trip to the IL if the pitcher is pulled early. Oh, by the way, the IL stint for pitchers is now 15 days, as opposed to just 10.

Pitchers are going to be more driven to pitch through issues, which will result in more injuries. Overworked bullpens have put high demands on relievers and now they’ll have to face three guys per appearance.

Managers can also no longer use guys on a daily basis as they attempt to secure just one or two outs. Players will be injured or burned out by July if they’re relied upon to pitch on a near-daily basis.

The End of the Specialist

The “specialist” may also find himself in trouble with the new rules. Specialists are called on to get that one batter in a tough situation, but they may now be a thing of the past.

The “LOOGY” (lefty one-out guy) may now become obsolete. Managers and GM’s must now look for guys who can last three batters, no matter which side they bat from.

Guys like Derek Holland (a self-purported left-handed specialist) are going to find themselves with shortened careers. For what it’s worth, Holland was never very good anyway.

International Effects?

As Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) continues to infuse MLB with pitchers, they may find trouble. According to reports, Japan tends to use more LOOGYs than MLB does. Future MLB postings may be now cut short, keeping Japanese pitchers from entering the league. Japan has infused a lot of talent into MLB (Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani and Ichiro Suzuki among others). Though none of those are relievers, future stars may find themselves impacted.

MLB is going to learn that this was a bad move. Watch, as guys start hitting the IL early and often this year. The next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will be in place for the 2022 season, but in the interim, this is the rule.

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Ken Allison is the senior of two MLB Department Heads, as well as a writer and editor for Overtime Heroics. A life-long MLB fan, he's also written for CubsHQ and had the opportunity to try out for the Chicago Cubs in 1986.