In case you missed it, Major League Baseball has proposed a few rule changes in advance of the 2017 season.
The proposal with the most potential impact is to raise the strike zone a few inches from the bottom of the knees to the top. The goal here seems to be getting more balls in play, which could improve the pace of games and increase offense. Brett wrote much more on this proposal earlier.
A second proposal includes eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk to save some time. Intentional walks will still be allowed, mind you, but a pitcher simply wouldn’t need to throw four errant pitches first.
On this, my opinion is pretty neutral. As Brett explains, the time saved is marginal and there is sometimes drama in those situations, but it doesn’t strike me as the type of change that’ll inspire a fierce debate.
Some other news from around the league …
- MLB has more to say with regard to pace of play, rule changes, etc. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post relays commissioner Rob Manfred’s thoughts on the various ways MLB can continue to improve the sport. Specifically, there is still some work to go on limiting mound visits by fellow players, coaches, and managers. There seems to be slightly less push-back there, so that could be something that gains momentum as time goes on.
- As for pitch clocks, things look to be making less progress: “Though officials have been encouraged by the institution of a pitch clock at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, as well as the Arizona Fall League, Players Association executive director Tony Clark steadfastly has opposed that in public, and that does not appear to be a serious consideration for major league installation.” I can see how pitch clocks can be an effective strategy for pace of play (especially because the proposed clock would actually feature a countdown (20 seconds) longer than the required 12 seconds already in the rules – but clearly not enforced).
- Earlier this offseason, the new CBA effectively pushed back the time until Japanese star Shohei Otani (sometimes “Ohtani”) will make his way to the states. And in a cruel twist of fate, a right ankle injury will prevent Otani from participating in the World Baseball Classic, as well. Hey Universe, please stop keeping the incredibly-entertaining Otani from us. Thanks.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates are shifting around their outfield defensive alignment quite a bit in 2017: Andrew McCutchen is heading to right field, Gregory Polanco will move to left, and Starling Marte will take over in center. Same three players, three new positions. The move was undoubtedly made in response to McCutchen’s worst defensive season and Marte’s Gold Glove defense in left in 2016.
- Despite serving as the Pirates’ center fielder for eight seasons, McCutchen (who is well known for his sportsmanship) is taking to the change very well, and demonstrating class in the face of change. He’s a good dude:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 6, 2017
- Although we’ve long been hearing of the Mets’ young, talented, and crowded rotation, it’s worth pointing out that Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zach Wheeler have never actually been on the field (well, in the rotation) at the same time. BUT, that could change soon. With deGrom healthy and already pitching after elbow surgery, 2017 might be the year that the Mets somewhat homegrown rotation is finally unleashed on the NL East and the rest of baseball.
- Speaking of scary rotations … At FanGraphs, Neil Weinberg writes about how the Diamondbacks also built a super rotation … sort of. Consider that a few years ago, a future rotation featuring Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker, Archie Bradley, Patrick Corbin, and Robbie Ray would look downright terrifying. Of course, some of those pitchers struggled in 2016, others have dealt with injury issues, and projections now put them collectively in the middle of the pack overall. Even still, the talent is very clearly there and a big bounce back isn’t difficult to envision. After all, with the exception of Greinke, 33, the rest of the rotation is between 24 and 27 years old. With that much upside and youth, they could really be a great rotation in 2017.
- Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is optimistic the team will have a new site chosen to call home by the end of this season. To be clear, they aren’t skipping town – the new site will be somewhere in the Tampa Bay area – but the final location has been difficult to pin down thus far. There is major work to be done, says Sternberg, but the plan is to identify their number one option and figure out how to make that location work.
- After his third DUI incident in South Korea, Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang has agreed to participate in a treatment program to work through whatever issues with which he’s dealing. If you recall, Kang was recently removed from South Korea’s World Baseball Classic roster and was also under a Chicago police investigation for an alleged sexual assault incident in June. I’ll reserve any judgement, seeing as how little information we have, and simply add that I’m glad Kang is going to get the help he seems to need.
- This is fun: At ESPN, Keith Law prepares a list of sleeper prospects in each organization around baseball. It’s an Insider article, so I can’t share too much, but for the Cubs, right-handed pitcher Oscar de la Cruz (who is also Law’s fifth best Cubs prospect) gets the nod. de la Cruz missed out on ESPN’s Top 100 Prospects list, but some other publications (like FanGraphs) view him as the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, even above Dylan Cease.
- Also at FanGraphs, David Laurila ran a second interview with Mike Elias – the Houston Astros Assistant GM, Scouting and Player Development – with a heavy focus on identifying, drafting, and developing starting pitching. One of the first and notable bits from Elias reveals that although the game has changed a lot in recent years, the opinions of scouts (particularly with pitchers) matters as much as ever – which sounds about right to me. From there, he covers the relationship between scouting and player development, incorporating new spin rate data, evaluating a pitcher’s size, and much, much more. There’s a clear emphasis on the Astros’ organization and their strategies, but it’s a very accessible piece overall.
- And finally at Baseball is Fun, Brett takes a look back at Babe Ruth’s (then record setting) 60th home run of the 1927 season. Why? Well, because it was the Babe’s birthday and he was freakin’ awesome. That’s why.