By now, most baseball fans are pretty well aware of the multiple changes the MLB will be bringing to the 2019 season and beyond. Home Run Derby victors will now be the happy recipients of a $1 million prize. There are no longer separate trade deadlines (one for standard trades and another for waiver-related trades) as July 31st will be the all-in-one deadline for trades. In addition, rosters will be capped at 28 players and there will be one designated election day for voting in all-star players.
While those are certainly noteworthy alterations to the game, they do not affect the course of in-game play like the also announced three-batter minimum does. You read that right. No more warming up for a reliever to step in for a mere one batter. Almost out of the gate this concept caught a great deal of varying opinions from around the baseball world. Sports Illustrated was one of the more outspoken sources on the matter citing that it “is a huge mistake.”
The most likely reasoning for this additional rule is to speed up the game, a resolution that the MLB has sought in a number of different ways over the past few years. With the three-batter minimum, no longer will fans be exposed to watching a pitcher come in from the bullpen, throw an incessant series of warmup pitches (even though he was already warming up prior to entering the field), face the batter, then get pulled to have the next reliever come in and warm up, face a batter or two, then wash-rinse-repeat.
I have to say, going against the grain of other media critics on this, I am all for it. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of the repercussions it can have on a team or even a starter for that matter. If the guy is having a bad game right from the opening pitch, too bad, so sad. He’s got to grin and bear it…or at least just bear it, until he gets to batter #4 and has the opportunity to get pulled. Honestly, though, how often do starting pitchers get yanked before facing the second or third batter of a game? I’m going with almost never.
Where this rule has the greatest effect is on relievers. I look at it this way. If you are good enough to make it to the Major League level, you are good enough to face more batters than just the ones who share the same handedness as you. Yes, baseball is a game of strategy and pitching is two-thirds of baseball. However, as a reliever, if for example, you can only succeed as a lefty by facing other lefties, then perhaps your career as a professional baseball player isn’t as cut out as you thought it was.
For a league that is experiencing a slow yet gradual exodus of fans, something has to be done to keep the games from becoming endless manipulations of stalling time by inserting pitcher after pitcher to meet the needs of extinguishing one specific batter.
Three-batter minimum? Approved.