11. March 2021

Jeff Passanespan

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Major League Baseball outlined Thursday a set of experimental rules it plans to implement this season at various minor league levels, including a ban on some forms of defensive shifts, more games regulated by an electronic strike zone, a 15-second pitch clock, restrictive pickup conversions and wider bases.

Rule changes announced by the league for the minor league season, which begins in May, are being considered for possible adoption in the major leagues. The league has hired a number of contributors, including former Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein, as consultants in hopes of improving its product locally.

Each level of the newly created minor leagues that have come under MLB control and will go from 160 teams to 120 will have a game changer. The most radical would be Double-A, where four infielders would be responsible for keeping both feet on the bottom of the infield to avoid the extreme shift that often results when players move from left field to short right. Based on the results, the league said there could be a more extreme version of the rule in the second half of the season: two players on each side of second base.

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The league has been steadfast in stating this rule: These defensive positional limitations should increase the batting average on balls in play.

We’ll see where it goes, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday. There are a few things I disagree with. But there are others we should try to see where it takes us.

Cora said sometimes the games are hard to watch.

As an industry, and I witnessed this from a distance last year, there are days that are hard to watch, he said. Strikes, promenades and houses. Especially in the regular season.

Teams in the Low-Southeast League – formerly the Florida State League – will use the ABS (Automated Ball Striking System) in certain games in hopes of determining the optimal strike zone for the system. The electronic system used by the Arizona Fall League and the independent Atlantic League will undergo changes in 2019: Instead of using a three-dimensional plane that covers the entire plate, balls are called and a two-dimensional plane is hit at the front of the plate.

The other lesser league, the West, will run on a 15-second clock. The MLB and the Players Association have discussed the introduction of the pitching clock, and it will likely be part of a larger discussion about new rules with the collective bargaining agreement that goes into effect on Jan. 1. December.

The growth of the attack is certainly part of the calculation of the LowA width rule: Pitchers may only throw or come off the mat twice per at bat. If they do this for the third time and fail to get a runner out, the ball is called and the runners on base continue. Depending on the results, you can reduce the number of parts to be removed/removed to one per plate.

The new High-A rule will likely affect stolen bases as well: Pitchers have to get out of the rubber before pitching to first base, which prevents many left-handed pitchers who have used a pickup for a pickup from making a move. MLB implemented this rule in the second half of 2019 in the Atlantic League and saw a 70% jump in attempted bases and a big jump in percentage. If stolen bases were discouraged by teams who felt the risk wasn’t worth it, the new rules will likely change that.

The final rule at the highest level, Triple-A: The footings will be 3 inches longer on each side. The front of first base is currently 88 feet, 9 inches from home plate. The distance between the first and the second, and between the second and the third, is also shrinking. The result according to the MLB: a modest effect on the success of attempted basestealing and the frequency with which a batter-runner reaches base on ground balls and bunt hits. The MLB also hopes that wider bases will reduce injuries from collisions with bags.

ESPN’s Jun Lee contributed to this report.

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Only one Minor League option is used in a season, regardless of how many times a player is or is not eligible to play in the Minor Leagues in that season.

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