MLB’s manufactured rules to speed up the game go too far when they conflict with in-game strategies that affect the outcome of games. Let me explain.
Not all of MLB’s manufactured rules that are designed to speed up the game are bad for baseball. The automatic intentional walk, once a tedious ritual save for the once-in-a-lifetime errant throw that goes over the head of the catcher and the runners advance, most agree the new rule is harmless and welcome.
From the same ilk comes MLB’s manufactured rule forcing a pitcher to deliver a pitch within 20 seconds, or a ball is called on the batter.
According to a study by Bleacher Report, from 2007 to 2017, the average time between pitches increased from 21.5 to 23.8 seconds, a difference of 2.3 seconds.
Big deal, we might say. But consider that the average number of pitches thrown per game is rising. These days, each team throws an average of 146 pitches per game, up about 11 pitches per game from 20 years ago.
Round that off to 150 or a total of 300 pitches per game, and suddenly twelve minutes are added on the time of game stat Commission Manfred monitors so religiously.
Not All Of MLB’s Manufactured Rules Are Created Equal
But not all of MLB’s manufactured rules are created equal, and one, in particular, that is about to be introduced for the 2020 regular season (thankful, not the playoffs) is the one putting a runner on second base to start each half of an extra-inning game.
Introduced under the guise of shortening games as a bow to COVID-19, the rule has been in play in baseball’s minor leagues for the past two seasons and has been met with mixed reviews.
Nevertheless, it’s here, and for good reasons, relievers are not happy campers. Here’s the way Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino put it:
“It’s Just Not Real Baseball”
Ottavino couldn’t have made it any more simple – MLB’s manufactured rules are “just not real baseball”.
For one thing, a manager’s strategy is virtually dictated by having a man on second with nobody out. To bunt or not to bunt, and on the other side of the diamond, to issue an intentional walk or not.
For a relieving pitcher, neither is desirable. However, one can argue coming in with two runners on, and the game on the line is not all that unusual and is generally considered to be his job – to retire the side.
According to Beyond The Box Score, about one in every ten major league games go into extra innings (8.7%). The chart below shows the additional time added to a typical game as innings progress:
The same study, however, indicates that 44%, or almost half, of all extra-inning games, are decided in the tenth inning.
MLB’s Manufactured Rules: Thou Reachest Too Far
So, isn’t it possible MLB’s manufactured rules sometimes go into an unneeded territory, when less than 10% of all games end up in extra innings?
What’s most telling, though, is MLB’s decision not to extend the new rule into the playoffs – because – we can only surmise these games “really count”.
The rule is here, and that’s that – at least for this year. Players, fans, media, and the suits at MLB will all observe and digest the consequences of the “man on second” rule as it plays out.
The Universal DH rule is on the books for 2020 only as well. However, it is destined to be a significant talking point in the upcoming negotiations between owners and players when the current agreement expires at the end of 2021.
Almost certainly, the players will combat the Commissioner in his desire to reinstate the “man on second” rule, while aiming themselves at the Universal DH forever (it means jobs and longevity).
For the moment, I, for one, begin the season as opposed to MLB’s manufactured rule for extra-innings.
But as with all aspects of a season played through a pandemic, it’s only one of many changes and challenges that will keep my attention.