How to Change the Game: Some Thoughts on MLB Rule Changes

By Cruz Serrano

Over the course of the past week, two different southpaws have been ejected and subsequently suspended for having a foreign substance visible while pitching in a game. Although in these cases it was blatantly obvious, there seems to be a consensus that most pitchers do this, however, the others tend to hide it better. Many players, writers, and a few outspoken managers seem to think that the rule outlawing foreign substances that help pitchers with their grip on the baseball should in fact be nullified. I tend to agree with this assertion, and won’t waste my time or yours explaining why, seeing as it has been beaten to death over the last week. However, I would like to take a look at a few other rules that the MLB needs to review and most definitely think about changing.

DH in the National League
In 1903, after a few years of battling for supremacy as the “true” Major League Baseball, the National League and American League decided to sign an agreement to recognize one another as equals and to play a postseason championship, pitting the two best teams from each league against each other in the World Series. In fact, the only time the two leagues would play would be in the World Series. The two leagues never technically merged, and each continued to play with their own rules, strike zones, and umpires. The most drastic difference in rules came in 1972 when the American League decided to adopt the Designated Hitter. The National League voted on adding the DH as well in 1980, however a boat trip by then Phillies’ owner Ruly Carpenter caused the proposal to be dismissed. With the DH in only one league and the leagues not playing each other, the two distinct leagues remained until 1997. After the implementation of interleague play in the mid-90s, the fall of two discernable separate leagues began. Today, both leagues have 15 teams, making it impossible for there not to be at least one interleague series to be going on at any given point throughout the regular season. To be blunt, there quite simply aren’t two leagues anymore. Based on this fact, the entire MLB should be governed by the same rules, which includes adding the DH to the National League. To add to the reasoning, pitchers aren’t good hitters. Occasionally, you come across someone like Carlos Zambrano who mashes, but these type of hitting pitchers are few and far between. And as entertaining as it is to see Bartolo Colon jiggle as he flails at a pitch, it is actually embarrassing that the league doesn’t allow a team to draw up the best lineup that it’s capable of producing. Pitchers get paid to get hitters out, not to make outs. Having pitchers hit no longer makes sense, and the risk of injury, if nothing else, should be enough to convince the MLB that the rule needs to be changed.

Sacrifice Hits Not Counting as At Bats
This is something that has always bothered me personally. When players bunt to move a player to another base, or hit a fly ball that brings a player home from third, the outs they record don’t count as at bats against their batting average, presumably because they are considered “productive outs.” The idea of a productive out is a red herring that leads an individual to believe that somehow producing an out in a given situation actually helps more than reaching base. Although the out may not be as bad as a double play or a play that doesn’t result in a run scoring, the fact is that that sacrifices are still outs, and producing an out decreases the probability that a given team scores from that point on in an inning. In fact, a team is more likely to score with a player on first with no outs than they are with a player on second and one out. Although these plays will continue to happen, players should not be rewarded with the outs not counting against them personally, when reaching on an error results in no outs and counts against the player in a situation where the team actually benefits.

Balks Before the Pitcher Comes to the “Set” Position
Last week while watching the Braves play the Brewers, I was watching Shelby Miller gut his way through a start in which he didn’t have the electric stuff he’s had for the first two months of the season. As he was unable to get on the same page as his catcher, Miller stepped off the pitching rubber to get a new set of signs. As soon as he stepped off, he was called for a balk for twitching as he was getting ready to take his foot off the rubber. The balk was a rule added to make sure that pitchers couldn’t be overly deceptive when trying to pick runners off, and the rule has good intentions. However, in this situation, seeing as Miller hadn’t even come set, there was clearly no attempt on Miller’s part to deceive the runner, because it would be nearly impossible for him to make a throw to a base. It seems pointless to punish the pitcher in that situation, and the rule should be changed so that the pitcher can only be called for a balk after coming set.

cru – Cruz Serrano, @cruzin_USA

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