More than any other sport, Major League Baseball thrives on tradition. It has a rich history that die-hard fans of the game know like the back of their hand. It also features a set of both written and unwritten rules that date back more than 150 years, when the sport first appeared.
Many fans see changes to the sport as a threat. Others see it as evolution. As the tastes and preferences of its fan base evolve, so too must Major League Baseball. League executives always discuss possible rule changes meant to speed up the game, increase the entertainment value, and make it more appealing to the modern fan. With that in mind, let’s look at three big changes we could soon see in Major League Baseball.
Expanded major league rosters
According to the Associated Press, MLB is nearing a deal to expand rosters from 25 to 26 players. Bigger rosters would have several effects on the game.
First, it would create more jobs for more players. While this isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing for the fans, it’s great for players. One extra roster spot on each team creates 30 additional jobs in the league.
Depending on how teams use the additional spot, it may increase the quality of pitching. Some teams would no doubt to expand the size of their pitching staff, which most likely means one additional relief pitcher. This gives managers more options for fresh arms to bring in late in the game. This is an advantage for pitchers and could see late inning batting averages dip slightly. It also could lead to an increase in the already emerging practice of bullpenning.
Another positive is that it could also help lengthen careers. Having more players available on each team’s roster would allow other players to rest more. Managers will have yet another option to go to that will provide either his position players or his pitchers with extra relief. It also gives those same managers another strategic option to use off the bench or out of the bullpen.
Expanding the rosters by one spot may seem like an inconsequential move. But from the perspectives of player health and strategic managerial maneuvering, it could have a big impact.
Major League Baseball reached an agreement with the independent Atlantic League to use it as a testbed for rules and equipment changes. One of those proposed changes? Using a device, referred to as a robo ump, to track balls and strikes.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said fans shouldn’t expect to see robo umps any time soon, but there is one big advantage to non-human umpires. It would lead to an increase in the number of correct calls.
Using an objectively verified mechanism using concrete data to conduct analysis is more reliable than relying on the eye of a fallible human umpire.
Traditionalists no doubt balk at the suggestion of robo umps due to the need for the human element in the game. However, relying on robo umps could actually improve the human element of baseball — it would lead to more players being rewarded for their superior performance as opposed to being penalized by incorrect calls.
Moving the mound
Another Atlantic League experiment is moving the mound backward. This would presumably give hitters a greater advantage and lead to more offensive production.
This is probably the most short-sighted idea proposed as a potential rule change, and the least likely to take effect. Pitching injuries are always a threat at the current distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. For example, consider that in 2017, 86.7% of MLB games featured a pitcher who had undergone Tommy John surgery. Moving the mound back would place more strain on pitchers’ arms and could lead to more injuries. There would be more offense to keep fans interested, but if it comes at the expense of pitcher health, we don’t see this change being seriously considered by Major League Baseball.