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Experimental Atlantic League rule changes

The Atlantic League is moving the pitcher’s rubber back a foot and changing the DH rule this summer

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2020 World Series Game 6: Los Angeles Dodgers v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The independent Atlantic League and MLB entered into a partnership agreement a couple of years ago, with part of the agreement involving the Atlantic League adopting certain rule changes at MLB’s request that would allow the league to see how certain changes impact real life games. Several changes were implemented for the 2019 Atlantic League season, including banning mound visits and requiring pitchers to face at least three batters.

One change that was initially announced for 2019 was that the pitcher rubber on the pitcher’s mound would be moved back 24 inches. That change was then announced to be delayed until the second half of the 2020 season, but wasn’t actually implemented in 2020.

MLB and the Atlantic League have announced a couple of changes for 2021 that are fairly significant. One is that the rubber will be moved back, although it will be moved back 12 inches, rather than the 24 inches previously discussed. The other is that each team will have the use of the DH for so long as their starting pitcher is in the game, but once a starting pitcher leaves the game, that team loses the DH.

Having the rubber be 61’6” rather than 60’6” seems like a minor change, but I think the impact will be pretty major. Pitchers have spent their entire lives honing their pitches to be strikes from a certain distance, and adjusting for an extra foot’s worth of distance — and an extra foot’s worth of break on the pitches — could be difficult. While batters will have more time to react to a fastball, they may find breaking pitches harder to handle, due to the extra time they will have to move.

The DH rule is one I don’t like and don’t want to think about or talk about. There should be a DH with pitchers not having to bat. Period.