Major League Baseball managers don't like proposed pitching rule for 2020 season

Key Points
  • The new MLB three-batter minimum rule will require pitchers to face at least three hitters or pitch to the end of a half-inning before a pitching change can be made.
  • MLB officials are hoping the change will decrease the average time per game.
  • The proposed rule is slated to take effect next season.
Joe Madden speaks to the media as he was introduced today as the new manager of the Los Angeles Angels during a press conference at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on October 24, 2019 in Anaheim, California.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea | Getty Images

SAN DIEGO – Surrounded by over a dozen reporters at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in San Diego, Joe Maddon did not sugarcoat his feelings when asked about a proposed new league rule.

"I don't like it," Maddon, the new Los Angeles Angels manager, said Monday. "I didn't like it from the beginning; I don't quite get it."

The two-time World Series manager is referring to a proposed three-batter minimum rule, which would require pitchers beginning next season to face at least three hitters or pitch to the end of a half-inning before a team can change pitchers.

MLB officials are hoping the change will decrease the average time per game, which the league has been attempting to address over the years.

Maddon said he's all for changes to increase the pace and shorten the length of a game. But this new rule can change a team's strategy, which he called "sacred."

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"Anything that deals with strategy," he said, "I'm not into it. Anything that deals with pace, I'm into it."

Previous rules allowed pitchers to face at least one batter before managers made a pitching change. Managers were allowed to match the best-handed pitcher to the opponent's batter. Hence, a lefty versus lefty is usually a better match than a left-handed pitcher versus a right-handed hitter, which generally gives the hitter an advantage.

The new rule takes away the ability to change a pitcher for a single batter, which Maddon and others said is unfair since MLB still allows pinch hitters, which can be substituted at any time during nonactive plays.

"It will change the way you manage a little bit," said Joe Girardi, the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies and a former manager of the New York Yankees.

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who just led his team to a World Series title in October, said the rule change is "going to be hard" for teams.

Manager Dave Martinez #4 of the Washington Nationals takes the ball from Anibal Sanchez #19 during a pitching change during Game 3 of the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Friday, October 25, 2019 in Washington, District of Columbia.
Alex Trautwig | Major League Baseball | Getty Images

The rule change will undoubtedly impact roster moves as more teams will seek pitchers who have success against both right and lefty batters. Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin said it's one reason the team re-signed left-handed reliever Jake Diekman to a two-year deal valued at $7.5 million.

"He's got a great history against right-handed hitters," Melvin said.

Though MLB has not publicly made the rule official for the 2020 season, most team managers at the winter meetings anticipate the change. On the league's website, it says previous rules regarding pitching changes "will be in effect through the end of the 2019 season."

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And while all managers aren't in favor of the change, the players union doesn't appear thrilled either.

The league can add the rule without approval from the player's association. MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark told The Associated Press earlier this month that players were "concerned" about discussions involving rule changes in an attempt to decrease game time.

"If we want to make extraordinary changes, call it something else," Clark said. "Don't call it baseball."

But like it or not, MLB appears headed for the move, and managers aren't waiting around to modify their strategies for next season.

"It's an adjustment you're going to have to make," Melvin said. "If that's what they throw at us, that's what they throw at us."