Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker throws to a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Major changes in the Minors: MLB to push back mound, adjust DH rule

The independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is experimenting with some major rules this year. Two major changes will take place for the 2021 season.

Moving the Mound

In the first of the rule changes, the pitching rubber will be pushed back as requested by MLB. The 12-inch push back moves the mound to 61-feet-6-inches from home. This will be the first time the pitcher’s mound will be moved since 1893.

“It’s a direct response to the escalating strikeout rate,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice-president of baseball operations. “You’re giving the hitter approximately one one-hundredth of a second of additional time to decide whether to swing at a pitch, which has the effect just in terms of reaction time of reducing the effective velocity of a pitch by roughly 1.5 mph. The purpose of the test and hope is giving hitters even that tiny additional piece of time will allow them to make more contact and reduce the strikeout rate.”

(Some) Pitchers get to hit, too

The second big change ties the designated hitter directly to the starting pitcher. The DH will bat only for the starting pitcher and no other positions. When the pitcher is taken out of the game, the reliever or a pinch hitter must bat in that spot in the lineup. This allows pitchers to have to bat less, which will let more capable hitters receive more opportunities.

These changes were explained by MLB consultant Theo Epstein. According to Epstein, fans, players and other persons in baseball requested more action on the field. More contact equals more action on the field, thus resulting in the rule changes.

Looking Ahead

Moving the mound should in theory result in more hits. Giving batters a little more time to adjust to pitches, which are evolving more and more every day, could potentially level the playing fields. In the same light, having pitchers bat less should provide more action as well. By having better batters taking more swings, players on the field receive more opportunities to show off their athleticism and technique.

“We are pleased to play a critical role in Major League Baseball’s tests and evaluation of experimental rules,” said Atlantic League president Rick White. “The ALPB is a forward-thinking league, and it is satisfying to our teams and players to be leaders determining the future of our sport. We are proud to play our part conducting MLB trials and excited to see the results of the potential changes.”

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