This season, MLB is experimenting with new rules in the minor leagues.
There are some really cool ideas on the table, and a lot of them have the potential to work at the MLB level.
However, some have flaws.
In particular, a rule designed to limit takedown attempts, which is being used in all full-season leagues in the minors this year, presents some problems.
Here’s what you need to know.
The big problem with the rule
Sal Maiorana from Democrat and Chronic does a good job of explaining how the rule works.
“During each at bat with base runners on board, pitchers have two free chances to control the running game, either with pick-offs, step offs, or a combination of the two,” Maiorana wrote. “The pitcher may attempt a third, but if the runner is not out, he is automatically awarded the next base.”
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that the rule eventually comes to the majors.
Here’s the big deal: By limiting pitchers to two safe out attempts per at-bat, you’re effectively telling pitchers that they can only pitch ONCE per at-bat.
Obviously, after pitching once, pitchers would only have one safe out attempt available to them for the remainder of the innings.
This second pickup attempt seems to be rarely, if ever, used.
(And the third – which obviously carries enormous risk – is used even less.)
If a pitcher were to use both risk-free putout attempts in a given beat, it would allow base runners to take absurdly large leads, forcing the pitcher to (a) live with it or (b) use that extremely risky third pickoff attempt.
It looks like a nightmare.
Therefore, exhausting the two putout attempts without risk would not be wise, as the base runners would have a huge advantage after the second throw.
So, now we’re talking about pitchers effectively having only one usable out attempt per bat.
Doesn’t that seem like an unnecessarily drastic change?
Pickup attempts are such a crucial part of keeping base runners honest, and MLB would throw a huge wrench into that aspect of the game if the league were to adopt the rule.
.@TeamUehara announced his retirement.
Was it the best pickup ever? pic.twitter.com/SEavrFCFQE
—MLB (@MLB) May 20, 2019
Anthony Bass was so flippant about this nifty pickup move! 💯👁️
– Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) August 11, 2021
The incentive behind the idea of the rule is to improve the pace of play.
Is it worth it?
The question of habit
In addition to the problem we just discussed, a minor league official has another concern with the rule.
“What worries me is pulling out and throwing when you don’t realize you’ve already (done it twice),” said Matthew LeCroy, who manages the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. .
For pitchers who have gone their entire career without having to deal with draft restrictions, such a sudden change takes some getting used to.
That’s the reality for many minor league pitchers now, and it could also become the reality for MLB pitchers in the near future.
Sure, most MLB players would eventually adapt, but once in a while we’d probably see pitchers forget how many times they jumped/knocked down and make a costly mistake as a result.
If MLB wants to adopt some sort of rule that limits outs, that would be great, but it doesn’t look like the league has found the right solution yet.