With the exciting announcement yesterday that the MLB will be reopening soon, we will finally get to see the young Baltimore Orioles play ball.
But, don’t get too excited too quickly, as the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the teams will have some new rules when they hit the field in late July.
One rule change won’t make much difference for players, unless you happen to be a pitcher that rakes. But in reality, there aren’t many of them anywhere anymore. The other rule might make you think you’re watching a youth baseball or softball tournament. All rules were designed to keep players safe and to keep the games moving.
Hopefully, only one of the rules is here to stay: the DH in both leagues.
The Universal DH
The shortened 2020 season will be the first time in history that the DH will be in both leagues. Pitchers will no longer bat, which creates an interesting bit of history. The last pitcher to face a pitcher was in Game Five of the 2019 World Series. In the top of the 7th, Sean Doolittle of the Nationals struck out Gerrit Cole of the Astros to end the inning with one runner on base. You might see that question on Jeopardy some day.
Taking a cue from minor leagues (who actually have nightly curfews for their players), the MLB is adopting the runner-on-second rule in all extra innings. As a fan of bonus baseball (extra innings), I’m not crazy about this rule. But, for the sake of getting games in and players home, it makes sense in 2020.
Why I don’t like this rule is that it affects stats. If the runner on second scores, how does that affect the pitcher’s stats? If the runner scores, does the runner get a “run” in their stats, even though they didn’t get a hit to get there? Removing extra innings takes away opportunities for all players to add hits, runs, strikeouts, and more to their stats. Even though baseball has had changes and controversies throughout the years, the stats have given consistency to the game.
The Orioles had 10 extra-inning games in 2019. The longest was 16 innings on July 25 against the Angels in Anaheim. The Orioles won after Jonathan Villar hit a two-run home run in the top of the 16th.
This rule is all about what makes a game “official.” Prior to this season, games called prior to the 5th inning due to weather were considered suspended games. The teams would restart where they left off on another day. If the game was called after the 5th, it was over and considered “official.” In the COVID-19 season, any game that starts and is stopped due to weather will be a suspended game and will be restarted at a later date.
Like the rest of the rules, this is to avoid having the players hanging around for a long period of time. This makes sense. In 2019, the Orioles had six games affected by weather. They all resulted in double-headers played within a day or two of the originally scheduled game. It will be easier to reschedule games in 2020 because no one will be in the stands.
Position Players Pitching
The final rule change that could actually make things interesting is the one involving position players pitching. In the past, the MLB only allowed position players to pitch when there was a blow out or when the bench was exhausted in extra innings. Now, position players can pitch at any time.
In 2019, one of the most exciting moments for the Orioles was when Stevie Wilkerson pitched in the 16-inning game against the Angels. Wilkerson earned the save after facing one of the hardest outs in the history of baseball: Albert Pujols. That save was the first ever recorded by a position player (another possible Jeopardy question). Chris Davis is another Orioles player who has had success on the mound in extra-inning games.
With the oddity that is the 2020 season, it’s safe to say that we could see a few Orioles position players on the mound in the 60-game season.