With baseball on hold, what better time to completely summarize the rule changes for MLB in 2020?
Throughout the winter, I’ve written various articles on the changes that Commissioner Rob Manfred’s has made to the game. With less than three weeks until Opening Day, I thought I’d summarize all of the 2020 MLB rule changes, some of which I haven’t covered previously. The rules are outlined in the 2019 MLB Rule Book.
As most of you know, there’s now a three-batter minimum rule in effect. All pitchers (starters and relievers) will have to face at least three men, or pitch until the inning ends. Any pitcher pulled for injury or soreness will have to face an automatic IL (injured list) stint.
This is supposed to increase the pace of play, but it’s likely to do just the opposite. Unfortunately, I also see this resulting in injuries, as pitchers try to pitch through pains they may experience.
Injured List & Option Periods
Although position players still have a 10-day IL, the mandatory minimum for pitchers is now 15 days.
This rule was partially implemented to keep pitchers/managers from circumventing the three-batter minimum. The IL was 15-days until the start of the 2017 season, but it was then reduced to 10 days.
Pitchers who are optioned to the minors must now remain there for 15 days. This rule was implemented to make it difficult for managers to flip-flop their lineups for more favorable outcomes.
Rosters will contain 26 men, as opposed to the standard 25; the 40-man roster remains the same. Teams are limited to a maximum of 13 pitchers.
September callups won’t see crowded dugouts and bullpens anymore, as the rosters will increase to a maximum of 28 men. Teams may carry no more than 14 pitchers at that point. Until now, teams could have all of their 40-man rosters available in September.
Teams will be allowed a 27th man in the event of a double header.
A “two-way player” is defined as someone who both hits and pitches. This is now an official designation, as two-way players don’t count towards a team’s 13 pitchers. Michael Lorezen of the Reds and Shohei Ohtani of the Angels are probably the two best examples.
Once designated, players remain in that status for the entire year. To qualify, a player must pitch 20 innings and must start at least 20 games as a position player. Players who would have qualified for two-way status in 2018 are automatically qualified for 2020.
Interestingly, Ohtani missed all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. He wouldn’t have qualified as a two-way player this season, which is why the rules were set to cover players who qualified in 2018.
Position Players Pitching
We all love to see it, but there will be rules this year pertaining to a position player pitching. They will only be permitted if (1) a game goes to extra innings, or (2) their team is either winning or losing by six runs or more.
In the past, managers have had 30 seconds to challenge plays; they now have 20 seconds. The idea is for them to have less time to review video, thus allowing them to save their challenge if evidence suggests they’d lose.
Electronic Strike Zone
The electronic strike zone, also known as the robo-ump or ELS, is being tested this spring during the exhibition games. Umpires are not wearing earpieces at this point. The league and software developers are making adjustments and tweaking the system, which is expected to be implemented by 2022.
The voting procedure for the All-Star Game has changed. There will be a “primary round” similar to All-Star voting in the past. Next, in late June or early July, there will be an “Election Day”. During this phase, the top-three players at each position (both leagues) with the most votes will be voted on by fans to determine the All-Star starters.
All-Star Games that go into extra innings will begin with a runner on second base, starting with the 10th inning.
Other Minor Tweaks
Finally, a rule the fans can embrace. Commercials during games will be reduced from 2:25 to a minute and 55 seconds.
Home Run Derby (total) prize money will be increased to $2.5M. The winner will receive $1M.
Mound visits will be reduced from six to five.
Additionally, MLB and the MLBPA will form a joint committee to study other potential rule changes.
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