The Rules Are Official: Three-Batter Minimum, 26-Man Rosters, Challenge Time-Limits, More

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The Rules Are Official: Three-Batter Minimum, 26-Man Rosters, Challenge Time-Limits, More

Chicago Cubs

None of the rules announced today by the Major League Baseball Communications department are particularly surprising, as we’ve long heard of their impending implementation, but this is our first true confirmation that, yeah, a lot of things about the game are changing this year, some quite fundamentally.

Check it out:


Three-Batter Minimum:

As expected, pitchers will now be forced to face at least three batters before they can be removed from any game, unless (1) the inning comes to an end or (2) in the opinion of the umpire, that pitcher is deemed physical unable to finish his outing. I think it’s important to note that this does not mean three outs must be recorded – it’s just three batters that must be faced.

I like this particular change because I think it’ll (1) speed up the game overall, (2) improve the pace-of-play/pace-of-action, and (3) generally lead to more offense and, specifically balls in play. Remember, the problem isn’t really how long games are, it’s how much dead-time is spent going from the starter to a reliever to a LOOGY back to another reliever … to finish the 6th inning of an August contest between the last place Pirates and Rockies. No one wants that. Everyone wants more baseball. This should help improve the action, even if it means the games are longer.

Yes, LOOGYs will be “out of jobs” but unemployed pitchers with slightly more split-neutral stuff will gain jobs.

I also think it’s worth considering how fortunate this is for someone like David Ross. As an inexperienced manager, he’ll have a lot of catching up to do this year, but at least in this one respect – managing bullpens under these new rules – he’ll have an even footing with any other manager in the game.

The three-batter minimum will be introduced in Spring Training, starting March 12th.

Active Roster Limits:

The standard active roster is increasing from 25 players to 26 players, starting on Opening Day. That’s good news for the Players Union, who just insured 30 more jobs for their players. With that said, it’s important to note that alongside this rule, teams are allowed to carry a maximum of 13 pitchers on their active roster at any one time. That’s a wise addendum, meant to further curtail the over-usage of bullpens throughout the year. Baseball needs more pitching changes and more strikeouts like I need a hole in the head.

A Few Specific Notes:

  • If there’s a double-header, teams will be allowed to add another player and that player *can be* a pitcher.
  • Two-way players have been accounted for. See the rules for specifics.
  • Relatedly, position players can pitch so long as the game is past the 9th inning or the team is up or down by more than six runs.

September Roster Rules:

Instead of allowing rosters to expand to the full 40-man in September, teams now must have 28 players on the roster after September 1st. One of those additional two players can be a pitcher, allowing the total number of active rostered pitchers up to 14.

Obviously, this will also have a fairly significant effect on the game as we know, because September is usually when we usually see the MOST relief changes, as well as teams flooded with unproven players and prospects getting their first cup of coffee (or helping rest regulars). In the past, this has led to the slowest games of the season as well as a handful of really uncompetitive performances, none of which is good for baseball.

With that said, I’m anxious to see how this actually plays out. I have a feeling there could be some unintended consequences.

Injury List:

Pitchers and two-way players have a minimum IL stay of 15 days (again), up from 10 days more recently. This will be effective in preventing teams from abusing the short-turnaround of a 10-Day IL stint to their advantage (not that the Cubs ever did that … despite our protestations). Relatedly, the option period for pitchers is increasing from 10 to 15 days for the same reason.

So many of these rules, as you can probably tell, are an effort to stop teams from using too many arms and too many specialists to completely squash baseball.

If we’re right, there shouldn’t just be shorter, more active games, there should be more balls in play … and you know, baseball.

Challenge Time

Apparently managers had only 30 seconds to challenge a play last season (it always felt MUCH longer than that to me), but now it’s down to 20 seconds. Good.


Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami