A MLB rule changes have been officially announced, and while we talked about the trade deadline being changed for 2019, there are a couple of more meaningful changes coming in the 2020 season.
You can check out all the changes here. The changes in All Star Game voting and game play isn’t terribly interesting to me, though having fans vote on the top three vote-getters in an “Election Day” vote would seem geared towards having heightened fan involvement and interest in the voting at that point. The winner of the Home Run Derby getting $1 million might increase the number of players who opt to participate. The inning breaks being shortened should help streamline games, and the mound visits being reduced from six to five likely won’t have much impact.
The most interesting rule changes to me, however, are the ones being implemented in 2020. MLB teams will have a 26 man roster beginning in 2020 — however, there will be a cap on the number of pitchers you can carry, and MLB has rules limiting the ability of “non-pitchers” to pitch except in extra inning or blowout situations. With teams being able to carry 13 pitchers (which seems likely to be the maximum allowed), it would seem to make it less likely you would need to use a position player in another situation. For a team like the Rangers, who have tended to rely on an 8 man bullpen more often than not, it means that they can keep an extra bench player, meaning more flexibility for a corner platoon bat, for example. In September, teams must carry 28 players, with no more than a to be determined number of pitchers.
Pitchers must, barring injury, stay in the game until they have either pitched to three batters, or ended the inning. This means that you can bring your lefty specialist into the game with two outs in the 7th, and if he retires the batter he is brought in to face, he doesn’t have to pitch to two more guys in the next inning. This is part of the effort to streamline the game and reduce the amount of dead time — as we have discussed before, to the extent that baseball has a game time problem, it isn’t the length of the games, its the dead time when nothing is happening, and shorter breaks, fewer mound visits and limits on mid-inning pitcher changes should help that.
Finally, in order to limit teams gaming the system to have bigger pitching staffs by optioning pitchers back and forth and putting pitchers on the injured list for minimum stays, the minimum period a pitcher must stay in the minors after being optioned is being increased from 10 days to 15 days, and the minimum stay for a pitcher on the injured list is being increased from 10 days to 15 days.
It is, overall, a fairly reasonable set of changes, I think. Be sure to read the full text in the link above to get all the details.