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SnakePit Round Table: Rules fight

Shifts! Pitch clocks! Manfred men! Get your arguments here!

94th Annual Academy Awards - Show Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Inspired by this week’s Brute Squad chat, let’s see what everyone thinks of the upcoming rules changes in MLB. There were polls for most of these in the Brute Squad chat, so I’ll include the results from those.

2022: Manfred man in extra innings (37% support)

Spencer: I am pretty ambivalent to this rule. I don’t like the idea of a potential perfect game getting ruined by a rule like this, but that’s such a niche concept at this point, that I’m willing to let it go. Personally though, if a rule like this is going to exist, I’d rather just have a home run derby decide the score. Contract incentives for power hitters would be cool to see too; a whole new home run stat for players to rack up!

James: I know this is going to come as a shock to all the readers of the Pit, but I hate it. I hate it with the fiery passion of a million suns.

Wesley: I am absolutely shocked that James isn’t a fan. Unsurprisingly, I am not a fan either, at all.

Michael: On principle, I say “Gross!”, although in seriousness this thing probably prevents the 15-inning win by attrition type game since managers are going all out to win in 9-10 innings. Maybe after the 10th inning we start bringing that runner in. On an additional note, if that goes away in the postseason I won’t complain as much otherwise.

ISH95: Okay, I’ll say it. I don’t hate it. I thought I would, I was all prepared to hate it, and when it happened, I simply didn’t. I wasn’t torn up when they originally announced it was leaving, and I’m not mad now that it’s back.

Steven: I like it. The idea is to protect players, and if the MLB won’t institute ties, artificially shortening the games with the starting runner works.

Jack: Hate it. It never grew on me. It’s contrived, not natural at all, distorts statistics. If they want to shorten extra inning games, just declare a tie after 12 innings.

Makakilo: Pro: “It’s not 15-inning games and we’re not all just trying to hit home runs. I think it definitely brings different aspects of the game back into the game, like the bunt and moving runners, guys trying to put the ball in play in different areas and whatnot. It’s definitely a pretty cool experience, for sure.” – Mookie Betts

Con: In 2021 it did not end 10 and 11 inning games quicker, per the following tweet:

My take: I prefer the Manfred man because it adds a strategic battle (such as does the team advance the runner at the cost of an out or does the team go for a big innings at the risk of a goose egg) and because it adds importance to dynamic aspects of the game talked about by Mookie Betts. In summary, it takes the game to a higher level.

2022: Post-season expands to 12 teams (60% support)

Spencer: Twelve teams in the postseason seems a tad excessive… But the idea of a miracle run through October for a DBacks team with 85-89 wins sounds fun in theory. Honestly my biggest pet peeve with this change is the loss of the Wild Card Game. I adored watching a true battle of the best players a team had to offer in an anything can happen format. I understand that a single game playoff isn’t fair after a 162 game season, but man it was fun to watch!

James: With only 30 teams, I am not a fan of it. I would be a bigger supporter of 12 teams if the league expanded to 32 teams first. As it is, this is just too many teams making it to October ball. I get it, it gives some mediocre teams “something to play for” down the stretch. It puts more money in the owner’s pockets. I just think there are better ways to do those things.

Wesley: I agree with James here, this only makes sense to me with 32+ teams. I’d be a lot more amicable to the playoffs being expanded if they reduced the number of games in a season to 150 at the same time.

Michael: MLB is making a cash grab on the postseason, although I don’t mind the idea of expanding to an even number of teams per league and it punishes the division winner with the worst record. I do think we’ll expand to 14 no later than 2026 and I don’t want any higher than that.

ISH95: Why would I not want more baseball?

Justin: I like it. I know my article wasn’t scientific, but to quote it “Out of a possible 224 playoff spots in 8 seasons, there was one team at .500, 3 at 82 wins, 4 teams with 83 and only 2 that were under .500.” I looked 2012-2021, omitting 2020.

Steven: Not a fan, the season of baseball is so long as it is, and it’s another week of baseball trying to compete with the NFL. Another week pushes the World Series deeper into October and colder weather.

Jack: As I said in the Bruteside chat I don’t like half measures. If the league wants to put the emphasis on the post season, shorten the regular season, lengthen the post season, maybe use a double or even triple elimination format. It would make teams fight MUCH harder to get into the tournament because they’d miss out on a lot of revenue if they don’t make it.

Makakilo: ISH was on target because it’s more baseball games! Plus these games matter and are played by the best teams.

Spencer was on target because it’s a better chance to see the Diamondbacks in the playoffs. When the Diamondbacks reach the playoffs it is a successful season, so this change means a better chance of a successful season.

Justin was on target because 14 teams in the playoffs would be even better than 12 teams! All the advantages of 12 teams are increased. Justin pointed out that it would be rare (twice in 9 seasons) for a team to make the playoffs with a losing record.

I am including a link to Justin’s excellent article.

2023: Pitch clock: 14 secs with bases empty and 19 secs with runners on (74% support)

Spencer: Good. Now we need a clock on batters who take a break after every pitch.

James: I guess I am fine with it. Frankly, all they needed to do was to start enforcing the pitch delivery time limit that has already been on the books for decades now. Enforcing existing rules makes more sense to me than creating a band-aid rule to address the fact that no one was paying attention to a different rule.

Wesley: Meh. This may sound strange, but I actually love how gloriously boring baseball is. It’s the perfect game for barely paying attention to while you do other things.

Michael: The rule is 12 seconds so I hope they get to that eventually, although I saw 15 for AZFL games last year. The umpire also needs to punish the hitter if he takes too long and if their manager leaves the dugout to protest should be hit with an ejection and fine. I don’t necessarily agree with a pitch clock with runners on base although a pitcher should be varying his times to the plate between the 12-19 seconds so I don’t mind the practice. I think the latter is MLB trying to revive stolen bases in the game.

ISH95: YES I LOVE PITCH CLOCKS. Now force the batters to stay in the box too, and we’ll really be cooking with gas.

Justin: Good, I love it. No offense Wes, and that’s great that you love that, but I think that is one reason why people get turned off baseball.

Steven: Excellent, love to see them try to reign in the between pitches antics. Take a look at the batters leaving the box/adjusting batting gloves and equipment now.

Jack: Much needed. There simply is no other mechanism to enforce the rules on the books. Pace of play improves, and the bonus of more balls in play creates a more active game to watch.

Makakilo: James is on target that enforcing existing rules makes sense and Jack is on target that this change was maybe the only way to enforce the rules. In any case, I like that a pitch clock speeds up the game. Minor league players have said that once they got used to the faster pace, they did not even notice the pitch clock.

2023: Defensive shifts banned (48% support)

Spencer: I dunno how to feel on this one. On the one hand, I’m a firm believer that a hitter ought to be able to direct the ball where the defensive players aren’t. On the other, hitting a baseball is hard. Like facing the Tree Sentinel before leveling up in Elden Ring hard. I am a little hopeful that this change will bring some extra small ball back into the game, which I find far more exciting than the homer happy game we have right now.

James: I don’t like it at all. Furthermore, what little data currently exists on the subject seems to suggest that the banning of defensive shifts will not have the impact MLB is touting. Let players and coaches adapt their games according to the situation present on the field. If a manager wants to overload part of the field and leave prime opportunities elsewhere, so be it. If players still want to swing for the fences to beat the shift, let them.

Wesley: I like it. The massive increase in defensive shifts has fundamentally altered the game, and has de-incentivised making contact at putting the ball up the middle. I don’t think we would have won the ‘01 World Series had they shifted as dramatically back then as they do now.

Michael: Depends on what they define as banned. Personally I don’t mind shifts although I think the overshifts with the 4th infielder playing in medium deep right field vs. LHHs are annoying and should be regulated to some degree. Apparently too many hitters can’t adapt to these shifts, but I do think some of these shifts are ridiculous. Personally I don’t care if a team wants to play 3 infielders on one side of 2nd, but there needs to be something that makes all 4 infielders have to play on the dirt. Penalize the offending team with a ball or balk call if they want to break this rule if you’re going to regulate how a team shifts.

ISH95: Not a fan of this one. This isn’t Wii Sports Baseball. Part of the game is the players playing in different spots based off the situation, and i think this takes away from that.

Justin: I like it. Sometimes shifting gets a little ridiculous. I remember a recap I did, where I commented on Avila getting shifted and he was barely batting his weight. Shifting has a place in the game but it needs to be regulated.

Steven: The infielder in short right was ridiculous and while I like the shift, I don’t mind having players play in the vicinity of their actual listed position. Let’s hope the change leads to more runs.

Jack: This will help mediocre, pull heavy left hand hitters more than anyone. Other than that, it’s not going to be the panacea for increased batting average that everyone is hoping for.

Makakilo: The shift has profound consequences on how batters swing and hit the baseball.

  • If infielders cannot play in the outfield grass, hitting the ball over their head makes sense. If they play in the outfield, then line drives that hit the ground quickly make sense.
  • When fielders move to one side of the field, a premium is placed on batters’ athleticism to adjust their swing toward an open area of the field. Without a shift, a premium is placed on the mechanics of a great swing.

2023: Draft lottery (poll below)

Poll

Are you in favor of a draft lottery?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Yes, it will help reduce the appeal of tanking
    (24 votes)
  • 44%
    No, the worst team should get the best draft
    (19 votes)
43 votes total Vote Now

Spencer: I actually like this one in concept, but would prefer different rules. I like the limit on picking in consecutive years (although I doubt it changes teams’ spending habits like they want). That said, I would alter it to have the highest odds go to worst record, second highest to the first team to miss the playoffs and down the line alternating until all non-playoff teams have a pick. Then reverse order of regular season records for playoff teams; I’m not a fan of ceding based on playoff record.

James: I actually prefer the cut-and-dry draft order that goes in reverse standing order for non-playoff teams and then the remainder of the spots are filled in reverse playoff finish.

Wesley: Hate it. I prefer the reverse record draft order that’s been used up until now. I like what James had suggested with the reverse order for playoff finish for the teams that make the post season.

Michael: A lottery always made more sense in the NBA because that player very often is an upgrade over your current roster and they can contribute from Day 1. That’s not the case in baseball, where the best draft prospect is 2+ years away and if you’re a bad enough team to lose 100+ games you’re more than 1 elite talent away from competing for a division title. Even if the D-backs landed Druw Jones or Termarr Johnson in this year’s draft, would that make them any closer to winning the division before 2025? Probably not.

The second problem then becomes what do you define as “tanking” and what do you do to “punish” those teams? The D-backs are a franchise that’s organically bad due to a lot of factors that could have its own article versus a team like the Cincinnati Reds or Oakland A’s that traded core pieces of their roster because they were getting too expensive. The one solution on the books today consists of punishing these teams in the draft, which in itself is a crapshoot. I guess revenue sharing dollars could be on the table, but I think there would be enough owners to veto this idea (you only need 8 and Kendrick is going to be one of them).

ISH95: Eh, I’ll leave this to the draft experts on the site, but much like the draft itself, I can’t get worked up over this.

Justin: As long as there is some mechanism to prevent teams from winning the draft lottery 4 years in a row….like the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL did….

I guess that’s my main reason I dislike the idea. I am with ISH too. Ask me in 5 years and see if my reaction is beyond “huh? They’re still doing that?”

Steven: Will this actually curb tanking? I’m not so sure. You’re still incentivized to lose as much as possible for more lottery balls.

Jack: Michael has this covered the best. I’ll just agree with him.

Makakilo: I very much like the change that large market teams which pay into revenue sharing are not allowed more than 1 consecutive season with a top-9 draft pick, while teams which receive revenue sharing are not allowed more than 2 consecutive seasons with a top-9 pick.

I have mixed feelings about the lottery for the first six spots because it adds luck to a complex process. Drafting the better player is complex and teams frequently fail.

Lacking the exact details of the process, my rough estimate is that the lottery costs the last place team $1.4 Million (on average) and costs the next-to-last team $0.7 Million (on average). The lottery is no big deal to the next four teams which average a gain of $0.5 Million, which is relatively small.

You are gifted unlimited french fries but are only allowed 1 condiment or topping, what is yours?

Spencer: Firstly, the fries have to come from Plank’s Bier Garten in Columbus, Ohio. Best fries in existence, bar none. I will die on this hill. You’re ever in Columbus, let me know, I’ll take you. As for the condiment, I’m simple: gimme all the ranch. Hidden Valley.

James: That one is easy, since I mostly only ever use one condiment anyway (except the very rare “fry sauce” at Forefathers) I’ll stick with mayonnaise.

Wesley: If it is a homemade mayonnaise or Aioli, I can get down on that. The Tucson local chain Eegee’s though has THE BEST ranch in existence, so I’ll go with that otherwise. I do not like Ketchup

Michael: I thank the Five Guys cashier and wish him/her a good day. No condiments for me, I like fries equally as salty as me after a Dbacks loss.

ISH95: Great minds Michael… I specifically want Five Guys extra heavy mayo that they use. Perfect dipping sauce for fries.

Justin: Oh, yeah! If it wasn’t for Wes’ comment about Eegee’s I wouldn’t even have thought of that. Definitely their ranch!

Jack: Tartar sauce. Yeah, it’s like that.

Makakilo: I pick spicy buffalo wing sauce that would wake up my taste buds. After eating the french fries, I would eat a salad with ranch dressing, which tastes amazing after buffalo wing sauce.

Perhaps that gift would change my eating habits because I eat french fries about once every six months.