The MLB has long sought to improve the pace of play, hoping to increase interest in the game. This year brings a pretty radical new rule change: a three-batter minimum for pitchers, that could effectively end the use of left-handed specialists (often called left-handed One Out Guys or LOOGYs) and other short-use situational pitchers.
THREE-BATTER MINIMUM: The Official Baseball Rules have been amended to require the starting or any relief pitcher to pitch to a minimum of three batters, including the batter then at bat (or any substitute batter), until such batters are put out or reach base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire crew chief’s judgment, incapacitates him from further play as a pitcher. The three-batter minimum will become effective in 2020 Spring Training beginning on Thursday, March 12th.
The other main changes are off-field adjustments for active roster limits and the injured list. This includes changes to the expansion of active rosters during the month of September, and the playoffs, where they will move from 25 to 26 players. A big change involved here is the designation of players as pitchers, and a maximum of 13 pitchers per roster from Opening Day through August 31 and the postseason, with a move up to 14 for September.
With this new roster designation, and the advent of guys like Angels star Shohei Ohtani, a gifted pitcher and hitter for the team, there is now a “two-way player designation” as well. These players can now pitch in games without filling one of the valuable pitcher spots on a roster. There is a new injured list rule for pitchers and two-way players involved now as well. The full release from Major League Baseball:
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) February 12, 2020
The other major change to actual game play reduces the time that managers have to decide to challenge a call by 10 seconds:
REDUCTION IN CHALLENGE TIME: Managers will now have up to 20 seconds to challenge a play instead of 30.
Most probably won’t have a major issue in the reduction of challenge time. The relief pitcher rule is more controversial, as the MLB is trading in some strategy to shave a few minutes off of some games, and could cost some pitchers their jobs in the process.
The constant shuffle of relievers is definitely an issue, but some baseball purists will probably have an issue with this.