Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Gaming the System

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday Quickie - Gaming the System

Whenever baseball is to come back there is a new rule in place. The "three batter minimum" is an attempt to limit the number of pitching changes and take away a bigger source of extra time in the game. A pitching change usually involves a slow trip to the mound, a run in from the bullpen, and a series of warm-up pitches, and then possibly an announced PH change to match it.  All in all it's only a few minutes per game, but without making a huge shift in how the game is played it's going to be tough to make the game immediately much quicker. Instead it's going to be picking at the margins hoping the entirity of what you do ends up hacking off 15 minutes or so.

But like any rule the trick is how to use it in your favor.  Here is the rule. (I can't find an official 2020 rule book). If you are too lazy to click - basically you pitch to three batters or until the inning is over, unless injury or illness (and I imagine extended delay though that is not written). Imagine this re-written for three batters I guess
If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is putout, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.
Now... let's try to break it.

Let's get the obvious out of the way - fake injuries and illnesses. It may happen here or there, but it will be very minimal.

The first thing to focus on is the end of the inning circumvents the rule. So that puts an impetus on getting relievers in mid inning as opposed to the start of an inning. This could go two ways. You could see more starters (or previous pitchers) stretched to get a batter or two more to start an inning.  You could also see more starters pulled before an inning ends rather than letting them finish the inning to save a reliever.   I'd expect the latter.  Essentially your first reliever being one-out guys who finish the starters last inning.

You will also see more walks. Since it's three batters faced, you can burn one by walking him.  Of course that puts a man on which isn't ideal but after you get to two outs putting a man on first still keeps the expected runs per game low. So if you think you have a clear advantage over the next batter you might as well walk that first guy especially with two outs.  Also we'll see more pitchers brought in to walk the guy ahead of the match-up you want. This is not a huge change but generally managers liked the leaving pitcher to issue that walk.  It would give the reliever more time to warm up and not start him off throwing balls or now - pointing for the IBB - god I hate that. In fact the IBB rule will make this something that definitely happens. You'll never see a guy purposely issue a walk to end his outing.

Will we see fewer pitching changes?  Probably so. Maybe one less. That's my guess.


mike k said...

Warning: Paywall.

This is a really good write-up about how the three batter rule is unlikely to have its intended effect. I remember when I read it that I had some minor issues with the author's methodology, but I don't remember what those are now and I also remember thinking that even if you resolved each issue in "my favor", the author's conclusion was still valid but just about 5% less so.

I also don't remember the finer points and don't have the time to re-read the article and summarize (my employer is super paranoid about us working from home and is checking work done daily), so I apologize for just dropping a link bomb and peacing out (particularly one behind a paywall). Though the reason I'm doing so is I remember really really liking this article.

PotomacFan said...

The three pitcher minimum will present an interesting strategic challenge, and will likely be the end of LOOGYs (and good for that). I doubt it will save time. If MLB were really serious about saving time and making the games shorter (and the games REALLY NEED to be under 3 hours), then the first place to start would be to eliminate one 30-second commercial between each half-inning. That's 17 commercials (if the home team bats in the bottom of the ninth) -- or 8.5 minutes -- without changing anything. Of course, this will never happen because it would reduce revenue. The next place would be to stop letting batters step out of the box and adjust their gloves after every pitch. This has gotten out of hand. Come on, a batter doesn't have to adjust his gloves after he takes a pitch. Likewise, I support the pitch clock, which would need to be enforced.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

Agreed with PotomacFan. The big way to reduce time is to actually enforce the pace of play rules that are already in place. The batter isn't supposed to step out of the box since 2015, and I don't think I've EVER seen a batter punished for it by the ump calling a strike. The only other major way is with a pitch clock, turn every pitcher into Mark Buehrle

Though one thing to note PF, they DID reduce the commercial time in 2018 (cutting it by about 25 seconds depending on the type of broadcast). So much for doing anything noticeable with the advent of replay

Kubla said...

If you are playing the Astros, you can get your loogy tossed for "accidentally" throwing at the batter.

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