How the New MLB Rules Will Change the Player Landscape in Spring 2020

The 2020 MLB season is just around the corner. With the new season comes a new set of rules meant to not only make the game more interesting but also more flexible and speedy. These rule changes range from the actual movement of the game to the way teams function behind the scenes.

Overall, the rule changes might be the most sweeping MLB has seen in years, but will they affect the landscape of the league? 

The new MLB rules affecting the game

Many of the rule changes have to do with the flow of the game, reports Sports Illustrated. This is especially apparent when it comes to the new challenge time rule. Previously, managers had 30 seconds to decide whether a challenge was warranted. Now, they’ll have only 20 seconds to make the decision. This requires MLB managers to think faster, shortening the game by several minutes. 

Another way the league is both cutting time and adding intrigue involves the new three-batter minimum. Now, pitchers must survive three batters once they are in the game. This makes bullpen calls more strategic, as a pitcher can’t just come in for a single left-handed batter. The only exception is when players are hurt or sick.

Rules affecting the roster

Other changes affect the roster itself. Active rosters will now have 26 players, as opposed to 25 through August 31. This change caps the max amount of pitchers at 13. Although come September, the teams can use 28 players and 14 pitchers.

This is meant to bypass the previous rule, which allowed for 40 players and caused many needless delays for pinch-hitters, runners, and relief pitchers. A 27th man will replace the former 26th man for call ups in special circumstances. 

One of the more interesting changes is the designation of a two-way player. With Shohei Ohtani demonstrating that pitchers can hit and Michael Lorenzen showing that fielders can also pitch in relief, the league is now designating players like this as two-way players as not to count against their 13-pitcher limit.

Somewhat related, position players are now only allowed to pitch in extra-innings or games being decided by six or more runs. 

How will these change MLB?

Changes like these are wide-ranging and important. Many come down to strategy and decision-making. Teams can no longer rely on several one-shot fixes to get through a problem. And the game becomes more like chess. If a team wants to take down a left-handed hitter, they now must consider whether the batter afterward can feed off of their current pitcher. 

Furthermore, the teams must be more strategic concerning players who come in during certain situations. These rules take away safety nets like 40-man rosters and position players pitching — both previously used to save energy and gain advantages. MLB is the highest level of baseball a player can achieve, and they can expect new challenges every game.

Baseball can be enamored with tradition in a way that can feel debilitating. Rules like this are a major step toward righting the wrongs caused by such a marriage to the unwritten rules and codes. Whether they’ll stick remains to be seen, but the 2020 season could easily be the most ambitious baseball season in decades.

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