Baseball is finally back! The long-awaited 2020 season has begun and baseball fans across the country are rejoicing. After months of deliberation, ineffective negotiations and a little controversy surrounding the adjustments, MLB has returned with its first games of the 60-game season. It might not be the season we expected, but it is enough to provide that baseball fix we have all been hankering for so badly.
What is normally a 162-game season has been shortened to less than half as a precaution to protect the players, managers and other staff from the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to pose a very real threat. This is not the only major change that the MLB has put into action as a health and safety protocol. There are several new rules that you should know before tuning in to watch any of the games this season.
One of the more disappointing rules that has been put into place forbids fans from attending any of the baseball games for the foreseeable future. Although unfortunate, this is an understandable rule to abide by the social distancing regulations and prevent further spread of the virus. While we all wish that we could be gathering together to cheer on our favorite teams and players in person, it is probably safe to say that baseball fans are just relieved to have baseball back – even if we’re just watching it from home.
Among the other rules that will be implemented this season are technical adjustments that have stirred up a little controversy and differing opinions within the baseball community. Some are meant to keep players healthy and safe, while others have been created to balance out the decrease in the amount of games.
The two most significant rule changes that will affect play are the universal designated hitter rule and the extra innings rule. We’ll break down how each will work below.
Universal Designated Hitter (DH) RuleDespite the adoption of this rule back in 1973 by the American League, this will be the first time in history that professional baseball implements it and uses a universal designated hitter (DH). Pitchers have always hit in games in NL ballparks.
What is the universal DH rule exactly? The DH rule allows teams to use another player to bat for the pitcher. It is being implemented to help protect pitchers in the shortened season since they will not have the same amount of time as a normal season to train and prepare. Additionally, this will give an upper hand to certain teams with depth, such as the Dodgers, Rangers, and Nationals.
Players have been in favor of the designated hitter rule for years. This could boost the pay rate for certain players for next year’s season if their batting statistics are positively affected by this rule.
Extra Innings Rule
During the 2020 season, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. Typically, the batter who starts an inning must go on to be the batter who starts off the inning in the absence of the extra-innings rule.
At the beginning of each half inning after the ninth, the runner on second must be the player in the batting order immediately following that half-inning’s leadoff batter. And if the runner scores, the pitcher is not charged with an earned run.
As an example, let’s say the number six hitter as the batting order goes is due to lead off the tenth inning. That would mean that the number five hitter will begin the next inning on second base. However, let’s say that player number six in the batting order happens to be the pitcher. In this case, the player preceding the pitcher can take their place and begin the inning on second base.
To keep all things kosher when it comes to calculating earned runs, the runner on second base is allowed to be considered a runner who has reached second base due to a fielding error. However, there won’t be any error marked against the opposite team or another player.
What’s the reason for enforcing this rule?The reasoning behind the extra innings rule is to shorten any games that start to run too long for the safety of the players, coaches, and staff on-site. It obviously is much easier to score if you have one player already halfway to homebase.
The Positives and Negatives of Extra Innings RuleWhile baseball fans can respect the extra innings rule and understand that it has been enforced to protect players and everyone working to make the season possible, it has been causing quite a rise within the community. Unsurprisingly, there have been some reservations among fans about this rule, mostly surrounding the true spirit of the game and the thought that a run could be scored by a simple bunt and fly ball. Fans have argued that it shouldn’t be that easy, as it never has been before throughout the entire history of the sport.
And on another note, the best games have been the ones that stretch into the night and have everyone on the edge of their seat! Some games end up going so long that position players end up having to pitch - which always raises the stakes.
Less innings would require less relief pitchers for a single game, which means they’ll stay fresh. This could ultimately affect statistics.
In ConclusionJust like this year as a whole, the 2020 baseball season is bound to be full of surprises. It will certainly be interesting to see how this unique baseball season will play out.
Although there will be some true MVPs absent and the season will feel short being limited to only 60 games, the team here at No Errors is excited to get to enjoy watching baseball again and revive that baseball energy that has been missing. How are you feeling about this season and the rule changes that have been implemented?