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OTM Roundtable: Breaking down the new rules

When I asked this question to the staff, the world hadn’t been turned upside down

Cleveland Indians v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

When we do these roundtables, I send out the questions on Monday so people don’t have to rush to get things done on a Thursday night or whatever. I’m always worried some injury or trade or something is going to make the question a little outdates. Gotta say, though, I was not prepared for a pandemic to throw this big of a loop. But, here we are. Eventually, we hope this season will get under way, and whenever it does, there will be new rules in place! Those include, but are not limited to, the three-batter minimum for pitchers, 26-man rosters from April (or whenever the season starts) through August and a 28-man roster in September. This week’s question was simply, “How do you feel about the new rules?”

Shelly Verougstraete

New year, new rules. Most of the new changes I’m pretty indifferent to, but I’m not a big fan of three-batter minimum rule or I should say the so-called three batter minimum rule. In case you are unaware, this new rule requires pitchers to face a minimum of three batter or pitch to the end of a half-inning. I doubt this rule change will drastically change a managers strategy or speed up the game in any way, so I’m really unsure why the rule is actually needed. I am a pretty big fan of moving the pitcher IL minimums from 10 days to 15 days. It seemed like some teams were not following the spirit of the initial change and using the 10-day IL minimum to their advantage (I’m looking at you Los Angeles Dodgers).

Michael Walsh

The two biggest rules introduced to the MLB this year are focused around a common theme: pace of play. The 3-batter minimum rule renders ‘lefty specialists’ ineffective, and will cause managers to utilize their bullpens much differently than in the past. Also, the 15-day IL has been re-introduced so a team can no longer take a minor injury, such as a blister, and allow their pitcher to miss a start in favor of calling up fresh arm bullpen arms, which leads to more pitching changes. While I am not bothered by lengthy games and frequent pitching changes, a number of other fans do not share this opinion. I personally do not like how these new rules remove certain strategies for managers, but they seem like steps in the right direction to help move games along.

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Mike Carlucci

The 25-man roster and the 40-man roster have been baked in to baseball terminology for years and now, after adjusting from the DL to the IL we’re making another change in language by changing 25 to 26. In concert with a pitcher limit (13) imposed for the 2020 season this additional roster spot has the potential to give baseball a window to experiment. Third catchers, defensive first basemen, pinch-runners all can make their case to stick around at the major league level longer than they normally would be able to.

How does this help the Red Sox? Well, in a bridge year with a weak farm but a bunch of players that could help a roster - Michael Chavis and Jose Peraza, Jonathan Lucroy and Kevin Plawecki, Marco Hernandez and Tzu-Wei Lin. There’s a lot of duplicated talent but not necessarily a clear answer about who is “the guy” who claims a roster spot for the season. If an extra spot lets some of these pairs share time in Boston, that’s great for 2020. When the Sox are next playoff-bound, imagine planning out a Dave Roberts strategy earlier in the summer. Maybe the next David Ortiz DH-type won’t have to fight for time with Jeremy Giambi and Kevin Millar.

Of course, every team will be competing for these players in years to come, but there’s a lot of supply in the minors and free agency every year of guys who are just outside a guaranteed roster spot but possibly worth more when given an opportunity to play.

Phil Neuffer

When it comes to the new rule changes, eventually teams will figure out the best strategies for using a 26-man roster or having to put a pitcher in and knowing that if they don’t have it, they can’t be taken out right away. The American League got used to the DH and the mound was lowered all those years ago.

However, I will miss the larger group of call-ups in September. This is not so much a strategic issue as it is a long-term outlook one. For teams that aren’t in contention, which is a position the Red Sox may be in if and when baseball starts in 2020, being able to expand the roster was a chance to glimpse at the promise of the future and see the prospects we hear and read about in actual MLB action. Even for teams that are contending, a late call-up can be a big difference maker. Xander Bogaerts didn’t technically make his MLB debut in September of 2013 (Aug. 20 actually), but he went on to be a member of the 2013 World Series winning team. That could still happen with the roster expanding to 28, but it will be a rarer sight.

Jake Devereaux

26-man rosters. I’m probably most interested to see how teams utilize their extra spot on the active roster. Baseball has had 25 man rosters since I’ve been watching and over that time teams have developed a pretty standard formula. With teams limited to 13 pitchers it will be interesting to see how teams utilize the last spot. It might make stashing rule 5 picks easier, which may be relevant to the Red Sox. I’m happy they’re doing it and I’m interested to see all of the various roster construction formulas during the 2020 season.

Keaton DeRocher

These rules suck. The only solace we can take here is that we all may be dead before we get to see them actually implemented. Three batter min? Who cares, all this means is that specialist relievers won’t come into the game at the start of an inning but they are specialist so they weren’t doing that anyway. 26 man roster? Great, can’t wait to see another terrible reliever getting meaningless innings in a blowout (this may not actually be accurate but in a mood and needed to keep it going). But worst of all, worse even than the fact Mookie Betts is in Los Angeles, HOW DARE THE MLB ROB US OF POSITION PLAYERS PITCHING.

When I saw this rule pass it was like biting into a freshly moist and oven hot chocolate chip cookie only to discover it was RASIN. It was like opening up a two-pack of Starburst and both were yellow. I felt like Pilot Peter’s mom after learning he loved Madison more than Hannah Ann. This is an atrocity on par with Nick Jonas’ vocal performance on the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables. There was no greater joy when your team is getting pummeled beyond belief than when some shmuck who hasn’t pitched since high school gets in there and spectacularly retires the side in order with 65 mile-an-hour heat. Position players pitching caught fire in 2018 when twice the position players pitched compared to 2017. That was followed up by another record of position players pitching in 2019 and every single was grand than the last and now we are robbed of one of the few joys in this abysmal godforsaken planet like Rafael Devers was robbed of an all-star appearance last year. This is literally the end of days. So, in summation, give me the universal DH or give me death.

St. Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Jake Kostik

For the most part, I like the new rules. First, the three batter minimum rule is one I support because I’ve long detested the “LOOGY” role in the sport and think eliminating it (as it presently exists) only serves to better the game I already love. Whether you are a lefty or a righty, you should be able to get any batter out. If you cannot get both lefties and righties out, then you are not going to be a very good major league pitcher. Additionally, it will prevent games from overstaying their welcome. Felt like last year we had several games that could have ended an hour earlier if not for a manager overmanaging the bullpen.

I also love the 26 man rosters, because I think it adds a layer of roster flexibility that didn’t exist before. It will help keep more players well rested, and potentially result in less wear and tear and general fatigue throughout the year. I also will never say “adding thirty major league jobs is a bad thing”, because it isn’t. While the roster spots will likely be going to more fringe major leaguers, rather than prospects, I do think it opens the door for more blocked players (think Bobby Dalbec!) to get an extended chance.

I’m a little indifferent on the IL rule changes, largely because I don’t really feel like the impact is going to be felt. There may be less phantom IL trips than there were last year, but I don’t think the impact is large enough that it will change anything about the game on any level. I would like to see it taken a step farther, and actually lengthen the time spent on the IL, because it is a 162 game season, and the difference between 15 and 20 games or so isn’t a big difference to me, but it may be to a major league team that is trying to pull some roster shenanigans. Lot harder to pull shenanigans when your hands are tied.

The only rule I really feel against is the 28 man rosters in September. Not that we’ve ever seen the 40 man rosters utilized all that well in the past (so the end result is probably not going to be all that different from what we have now), but 28 men feels like a really small number to me. As I think I’ve made clear, I’m for more rest for the players, because a 162 game season (not that we’re getting one this year, likely) is a long time to stay healthy. Anything we can do to protect player health is a good thing. By only allowing 2 more players (26, plus the new ones makes 28) on the roster in September, a lot of the flexibility and rest that is offered to players in September goes away. There’s an argument here that you can just change which players are on the active 28 man roster, and it’s a good one if the roster is kept flexible and those in charge choose to change the players out. But as we’ve seen in several cases in the past, roster manipulation is a thing, as is service time manipulation. I feel like this only opens the door for further abuses of both things. I would support this rule if the roster size was expanded even a few more to 30, and there was a rule in place that kept those 30 locked in place, to prevent manipulation of the roster and service time.

Bryan Joiner

First off, I have no real problem with any of these. For all the hubbub about the three-batter rule, I think we will adjust to it immediately and actually come to embrace it, especially when an opposing team’s reliever gets taken deep by Rafael Devers and still has two Sox yet to face. The 26-man roster move is one that seems like it will make a huge difference over the course of a season for a team but one that’s mostly invisible to us here, because 25 and 26 are incredible similar numbers, if you hadn’t noticed. Insofar as I’ll lament anything at all it’s the 28-man roster in place of the 40-man, and not because the 40-man was “right” in any real way, it was just awesome. It makes sense to narrow the number of available players while widening the playoff field, ensuring the people playing for extra spots aren’t ringers and the fans get to see real big leaguers in September, but it’ll be different not to get to get a sneak team of the future during the regular season. We’re pretty well-equipped to handle that, scouting and information-wise, but the move from 40 to 28 removes the chances for chaos, and that’s sad. Some chaos is good.

Matt Collins

I think I like every one of these rule changes? Seems weird! The three-batter rule will not have nearly the impact some people are expecting it to. Granted, there will certainly be some unexpected consequences because that’s always the case, but I can’t really see a great argument against it. I’ve seen managers complaining that it’s going to change how they manage. I’m unclear why that’s supposed to move me at all. That’s... the entire point? You’ll figure it out. You’re a major-league manager! Anyway, the other ones are fine too. Position players pitching was incredibly overplayed. Gaming the IL for pitchers was getting old. 40-man rosters made no sense. There are real effects for that last one on minor-league players and getting their pension, which I will not dismiss, but just in terms of the on-the-field effect it was absurd. MLB does a lot of dumb stuff, but all of this seems fine.

Brady Childs

I think the new rules suck and that the problem with baseball’s ever growing unwatchability have less to do with pace of play and more to do with tanking teams, lack of parity, terrible announcing that laments the current stare of play, and an unchecked cheating scandal (when’s that report coming out about the Red Sox, Manfred?) Moving the IL back to 15 days won’t stop the Dodgers from manipulating it, it’ll just change how they do it.

Constant pitching changes don’t impact the pace of the game in a meaningful way until you get to the postseason. Maybe we’ll see it creep it’s way into the regular season more if The Opener catches on league-wide, but that hasn’t happened yet. The one thing that will meaningfully speed up the pace of play is cutting the number of ads shown in between innings, but that’ll never happen. Doing anything else is window dressing.

One of my favorite parts of the season used to be when rosters would expand to include the others on the 40-man roster and now it won’t happen because teams don’t want to have to pay a months worth of major league shares to a handful of more players. You could just be like the Mets and not call anyone up, but then everyone knows you’re being cheap. With the rule change, you don’t have to worry about the bad PR. Meanwhile, 40-man prospects lose valuable experience and a quick influx of cash.