The 2020 MLB season was arguably the most experimental. Some might argue that the season was lauded by pointless gimmicks. Commissioner Rob Manfred did mention that most if not all of the rules won’t be back for a hopefully normal 2021 baseball season.
Let’s look at some of the experimental rules that the league implanted for the 2020 MLB season:
Man On Second Base During Extra Innings
This rule wasn’t too foreign to the knowledgeable baseball fan. As a matter of fact, this rule was actually used in the minor leagues in 2018 and 2019. The objective of the rule is speeding up the pace of play. Has this rule sped up the game you ask? As a result of the rule being implemented in both 2018 and 2019, only 43 minor league games needed more than three extra innings to determine a winner, per the Washington Post.
Now, I couldn’t find statistics to see whether the rule worked in 2020. But with the proof from minor league games, the rule probably worked and will work in the future.
I personally am not a faster pace of play enthusiast but this is where the sport is going. I don’t know if the MLB will plan to keep the rule for this year as well but it’s highly likely the rule comes back in 2022 or beyond.
In 2020, Major League Baseball decided to use a means of an expanded playoff bracket. Much like the NBA and NHL, the league used an eight-seed playoff format. This allowed the unlikeliest of teams like the Reds, Marlins, Padres, and Astros to make the playoffs. Three of the four aforementioned teams either had records barely over .500 or a record below .500 which is an extreme rarity in the sport.
Critics of this format like myself believe this allows for more teams to finish with mediocre records. Teams like the Dodgers and Yankees could render the regular season pointless, knowing they are the best of the best.
Seven Inning Doubleheaders
Primarily a safety precaution, the MLB implemented seven-inning doubleheaders for the very experimental 2020 season. The idea behind the rule was supposed to get the teams off the field quicker so players wouldn’t be in so much contact with each other. These seven-inning doubleheaders are also featured heavily in college and minor league baseball.
Some rules that applied to nine-inning doubleheaders in normality applied for the seven-inning double dips. A starting pitcher still had to go five innings and be on the winning team to receive a win. Although, if you wanted to achieve baseball immortality, you still have to go nine innings. In other words, the no-hitter or perfect game is virtually impossible in a seven-inning format.
If the MLB is still worried about player safety amid a pandemic, it’s safe to say that this rule will come back.
Designated Hitter In The National League
This is my personal favorite out of all the experimental rules. The MLB finally decided to implement a designated hitter for the National League. This had been talked about for years upon years. The reason behind this is the league doesn’t want pitchers to run themselves into injuries. Whether it’s the risk of pulling a hamstring on the bases or getting hit by a pitch, the MLB finally took action to prevent injuries.
A huge benefit for these teams in the National League is more power to the lineup. But a con to this rule is less bench depth. But, I’d definitely take player safety measures over bench depth. I undoubtedly think this rule should stay. But, per reports, the rule won’t stay.
Should These Individual Rules Stay?
There have been conflicting reports on whether the MLB wants to fully implement these rules in a 162 game season. Personally, I think Major League Baseball should only keep one of these rules. That being the designated hitter rule. The rest of the rules I feel were just experimental and more like a gimmick. But, what I am saying doesn’t mean anything. There might be a possibility MLB could implement these rules next year.