The eight-team Atlantic League, which has franchises along the east coast, will adopt the change in the second half of its 120-game regular season, said a person familiar with the matter. It will be the first change to the mounds’ rules in professional baseball since 1969, when MLB lowered the mound after a season in which seven starting pitchers sent under 2.00 ERAs.
MLB officials pushed for the experiment after years of internal deliberations about changing the distance from the mound to the home plate, one of the people familiar with the discussions told the Washington Post anonymously to freely detail the private sessions. It is aimed at increasing the action on the base paths and increasing the amount of contact.
“[MLB leaders] came to the conclusion that the things that drew us to the game in the first place are overshadowed by absolute results, and honestly people find it boring, ”said one of those involved in the decision. “Batters hit the ball more often, and that’s really the root of what we’re doing here.”
An MLB official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions explained that the move of the mound has been brought up for years but then dismissed as too radical.
But as the league began to consider other, minor changes, its management concluded that it would be “negligent” not to test the one change that might solve the problem alone.
“We kept coming back to the fact that we can try to change four or five things, and we will, to try to push the game in the right direction and get more contact back,” said an MLB official. “But we would probably be negligent if we did not try at least the one solution that, while we call it radical, can in itself be that resolution.”
The Atlantic League will also introduce a “double-hook” rule that governs the designated hitter: Teams can keep a DH in their lineups as long as their starting pitcher remains in the game. When a manager goes to the bullpen, the new pitcher must bat or be replaced by the game.
This rule represents a compromise between the rules of the American League, where teams can use the designated hitter for all their pitchers, and the National League, where teams are not allowed to use one at all.
MLB hopes allowing teams to use a designated hitter until the starter is out of the game will encourage teams to rely more on starting pitchers, something the league’s fan polls said would be a popular shift. At a time when several teams use “openers” for a few innings, and even proven top starters often last only five or six innings, league officials hoped that the loss of a designated hitter might influence some leaders to keep their starts in one inning. or two more.
It is not expected that one moves the mound back to these conversations, and it will almost certainly be a polarizing experiment. The Atlantic League tried to push the mound back in 2019 before the deal with MLB, but withdrew the proposal after pushback from pitcher, several of whom threatened to leave the league.
The Atlantic League is independent and the teams are not affiliated with MLB franchises. It is a partner league with MLB and has debuted empirical rules before – perhaps especially the so-called “robo umps” in 2019. Players signed by the teams themselves, which means that they are usually not elite prospects and are never under contract with major league organizations.
But while it will not be tested on high-paying young players, the new rule could restore tensions over MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s recent experimental look at the game. This year, Manfred hired Theo Epstein, the former president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs and former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, to serve as a consultant tasked with finding new ways to increase action in the game and the pace of the game.
“These rule changes are extremely viable – otherwise MLB would not do them,” said one of the people involved in the discussions.
But if an increase in base size and limitation of shifts qualifies as significant rule changes, it’s huge to move the mound back.
The main league mound has been 60 feet 6 inches from the home plate since before the 1893 season. Diamonds across the country, from those on the edge of cornfields to polished high school facilities, are built to these specifications. Few numbers, except perhaps the season with 162 games, are just as sacred. Baseball tends to cling to tradition and seems unlikely to receive such a change quietly.
“The hypothesis that common kinetics would increase with pitch distance was not supported as no significant differences were found,” the researchers wrote, noting that the increased distance allowed for more vertical and horizontal pause, possibly “counteracting the timing effect” experienced. of hitters.
This study only looked at fastball mechanics and was supported by MLB, all of which could provide plenty of feed for skeptics. But a press release sent out by MLB points to the reaction time for a 93.3 mph fastball, which was the biggest league average speed in 2020. The same pitch thrown from 61 feet 6 inches is roughly equivalent to a 91.6 mph fastball. That was the average average speed of majors in 2010.
Even once tested, the rule is far from reaching the big ones. If the rule seems to have the desired effect in the Atlantic League, MLB is likely to try it first at lower levels of affiliated minor leagues, then at higher levels of affiliated minor leagues.
There is no guarantee that it will have the desired effect. In the process of raising another foot, a higher percentage of breaking balls could e.g. Break out of the zone and increase the walk unwanted. On the other hand, the extra time to move can make the switch harder to get past, though the extra time can also mean that hitters can track the ball further and respond better.
“I think the knowledge we gain is the most important thing,” the MLB official said. “Of all the rule changes, some will work well. Some will have conflicting effects. And some will stumble upon some unintended, counterproductive consequences. If all that happens is that we exclude it, it’s really useful information that allows us to focus our resources on other areas that may be more fruitful. ”