Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced last week that the two sides had agreed to terms on safety and testing protocols. As a result, commissioner Rob Manfred has set a 60-game season that will see teams play their games against their divisional rivals and their geographic counterparts (the National League East teams, for instance, will play against the American League East teams). Yes, baseball will be back.
The three-batter minimum, a rule change that was instituted this past offseason, will remain in place, requiring pitchers to face at least three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for injuries and illnesses.
There are a few notable rule changes being instituted for the 2020 season in the name of player health and safety, the league announced Monday: the universal DH and a modification to extra innings that will see each frame begin with a runner on second base among others. Here's a closer look at some of the 2020-specific rules:
It seems like the DH has been rumored to be coming to the NL forever. It will be here in 2020.
The company line is that using a DH will help pitchers stay healthy (by eliminating them swinging the bat or running the basepaths) and will enable additional players to get more consistent at-bats. Plus, managers will be able to temper their starters' workloads by keeping them off their feet when they're not on the mound.
Perhaps that proves to be a bunch of fooey, but it's a sensible bunch of fooey in light of the condensed schedule.
Runner on second in extras
MLB has been experimenting with this wrinkle in the minors. The purpose is to hasten games, and to avoid marathon contests that could prove particularly grueling this year.
The rule has succeeded in those efforts at the minor-league level. According to Baseball America's J.J. Cooper, more than 70 percent of extra-inning games have been resolved after a single inning during the 2018-19 seasons. In the two years prior, that was true in just 45 percent of contests.
Obviously there's something to be said about the strategic differences between the minors and majors, but there's reason to believe we'll see fewer games going 11-plus innings this year than normal, and not just on a counting basis.
Position players pitching
There will be no restrictions on position players pitching during the 2020 season.
Prior to the season's postponement, the league was planning to add a rule change that would have required MLB teams to designate every player on their active roster as either a pitcher or position player. Position players would not be allowed to pitch unless the game was in extra innings, their team was ahead or trailing by more than six runs, or the player had qualified for the two-way designation.
In 2020, players and managers will be held to a zero-tolerance standard regarding arguments and bench-clearing fights. All MLB players, managers and coaches will be expected to maintain social distancing -- which requires there to be at least six feet between each person -- guidelines from all umpires and opposing players. The league plans to punish any of those who break this rule to an immediate ejection and subsequent discipline, including a possible fine and suspension.
MLB pitchers will be allowed to carry a small, wet rag in their back pocket, the rag will be used for moisture in place of pitchers licking their fingers.