Baseball is back!
But as it returns, some fans might not recognize certain aspects of the game due to some changes that were implemented as a result of the collective bargaining agreement hashed out by owners and players.
Here’s a breakdown of what a few of those key changes are.
Changes for 2022
- Universal designated hitter. After seemingly decades of debate, those who hate seeing pitchers bat are rejoicing, while those who love pitchers hitting -- and the added strategy it employs regarding when managers should pinch-hit for them and take them out of the game -- are groaning in defeat. Adopted in 1973, the designated hitter has caused a divide in baseball, with the American League using it and the National League still having pitchers hit. Ultimately though, this was likely going to be the outcome. The player’s union likes the DH because it means extra player jobs, while owners don’t mind the excitement of increased offense with an additional good hitter in the lineup.
- Additional postseason spots. Remember the old days when the only playoff spots were awarded to the best teams in the American League and National League during the regular season, who then met in the postseason? Or simply two division winners from both leagues who met in the League Championship Series, with the winners playing the World Series? Those days are looong gone. The playoff spots just keep increasing. From wild card teams being introduced in the ‘90s to bring the total number playoff teams to eight, to adding two more playoff teams last decade, to now there being 12 playoff spots, the playoffs are within reach for more teams than ever. The top-two teams in the American and National leagues will get first-round byes.
- A draft lottery. Much like the NBA and NHL, Major League Baseball is now adopting a draft lottery in hopes of preventing teams from tanking in order to get a better draft spot. It will be a six-team lottery.
- Measures to curtail service-time manipulation. In recent years, many organizations have instituted what’s known as service-time manipulation, meaning they keep their top prospects in the minors as long as possible in order to maximize their time in the organization. For example, if a top prospect is clearly ready for the majors, teams often keep that prospect in the minors until a certain point in the season when another year of service time kicks in. When that date arrives, the prospect is then called up to the majors. Now, owners and players have put in provisions in which a full year of service time is awarded to players who finish within the top two in Rookie of the Year votings in each league, and draft picks will be awarded to teams that promote players on Opening Day who finish among the top vote-getters for major awards.
Changes for 2023
The following rules are expected to be implemented next year, with Major League Baseball required to give at least 45 days notice that they will take effect.
- Ban on defensive shifts. Those who don’t like seeing five outfielders or three infielders on one side of second base will be happy to see this return to more conventional defensive alignments. This will likely add more offense to the game with more balls put in play.
- Pitch clocks. An automatic ball will be called by umpires if pitchers don’t get a pitch off in time. The time pitchers have will reportedly be 14 seconds with the bases empty, and 19 seconds with runners on base.
- Larger bases. This was experimented with at the Triple-A level last year, with 18-inch bases replacing 15-inch bases. It’s meant to give runners a better chance to reach a base safely and thus increase offense.
What do you think of these new rules changes? Let us know in the comments below.