Another year of experimentation it is for baseball. This time it comes to Minor Leagues as they didn’t have a season last year amidst a pandemic.
Many experimental rules are coming to the minors this season. Let’s go over them and see what can or can’t work.
Larger Bases In Triple-A
One of the first experimental rules coming to the minor leagues is larger bases. Originally, each side of each base is 15 inches long. That was once the league standard.
Now in Triple-A, each base will be extended to 18 inches square. Add on a material change as well to have the bases work better in wet conditions due to rain. Home plate will remain the same size as first, second, and third will be extended.
The small, incremental increase in size creates more room for players to operate around the bases. These extensions on the bases are supposed to reduce the odds of collisions that have caused ankle and foot injuries in years past like the one that happened to Bryce Harper in 2017.
The change to the size of the bases also decreases the distance between them. Normally, the distance between bases is 90 feet.
Perhaps now the extension of the base size has another reason for existence. That’d be more action in the game. Due to the increase in size, it’s now easier to steal bases and now you could see more bunts laid down, increasing traffic on the basepaths.
Personally, I’m sort of indifferent to this rule change. Yes, the amount of action increases, and horrific ankle and foot injuries decrease hopefully. But, how often do foot and ankle injuries happen due to the original bases? How often do collisions happen at say first base? You can’t think that many. But to stop base runners from stealing now, you now need a gun-slinger of an arm to throw someone out.
Defensive Positional Restrictions Incoming (Coming To Double-A)
Rarely does baseball ever imply any defensive restrictions. Now, there’s a slight change of tune.
In Double-A, the first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, and third baseman will be required to have both feet completely in front of the outer infield dirt boundary when the pitch is delivered. Infielders can still shift but they must be positioned in the infield.
The goal here is to have more batted balls come into play. Under this new change, for example, a scorching ground ball taken up by the second baseman positioned in shallow right field is more likely to get through to the right fielder.
As an anti-shift guy, I like this change. The advantage now goes to the hitter.
New Step-Off Rule (Coming To High-A)
This change coming to High-A ball is aimed at increasing the number of stolen base attempts and perhaps the stolen-base success rate as well. In baseball today, the stealing of bases has seemed to fade away just a bit because of analytics and more hitters swinging for the long ball.
The new rule is that pitchers must step off the rubber before attempting to pick off the baserunner. Otherwise, an Andy Pettitte-like move is scrapped. Snap throws followed by step-offs are now eliminated.
This rule was tested in the Atlantic League in 2019 and runners became more ambitious to steal bases.
This new rule could have an impact on the pitcher-hitter dynamic. Now, if the pitcher is more mindful of the running game, more fastballs will be thrown in the strike zone.
Personally, I am indifferent to this rule. Not a fan of the step-offs but if it increases more baserunner action in the minor leagues to start, that’s cool.