MLB

Three new slow-pitch softball-esque rules MLB should adopt for bizarro 2020 season

Baseball is being played in the summer of 2020, though it often bears little resemblance to what the sport has looked like over the past century-plus. 

In extra innings, baseball has decided to put a runner on second base to start the frame. On days with doubleheaders, MLB has cut each game from nine innings to seven. 

These are strange days, no doubt, but it’s all very silly. These are rules that seem more befitting beer-league slow-pitch softball games than Major League Baseball contests. 

And, sure, this is a unique situation. The season is only 60 games long (though it seems unlikely every team will get to 60). And the start/stop/wait/start nature of the season, mandated by the global pandemic, means that the aforementioned rules tweaks might help shorten games and reduce the strain on pitching staffs (even though rosters are expanded). 

Sure. Fine. Whatever. It’s a bizarro season in a bizarro world in a bizarro year, so bizarro rules are fine — as long as they’re in place for 2020 only (the DH likely isn’t leaving the NL, though). But why not really go all-in with the new and unusual? 

Here are a few other rules MLB could add to spice up 2020. 

Long home runs count for more

Why not? Back in 1961, the ABA decided to award three points to a shot that was farther out because it was more difficult and added an element of excitement. The NBA adopted it for the 1979-80 season and the NCAA officially, fully made it a standardized rule in 1986. 

Why not adopt the same principal for baseball? It’s harder to hit the ball 475 feet than 350 feet, right? Shouldn’t that be worth more? 

So far this year, 206 players have hit at least one home run. According to Statcast numbers, 31 players have hit at least one home run 430 feet or farther — that’s an even 15 percent. Seems like a good place to draw the line in the sand. So every home run hit that’s 430 feet or longer, according to Statcast, for the rest of 2020 is worth two runs. 

Down by one with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and nobody on base? Swing from the heels and win the game right there! Nobody in baseball history has ever hit a five-run homer, but with this new rule it would be possible. 

We could call it the Grandest Slam or something. 

Look, when MLB decided to just put a guy on second base to start an inning, all bets were off for the 2020 season. All tradition was thrown away. If you don’t have to actually earn your way on base, what is really sacred in the game? So, five-run homers should be a thing, too. 

New rules after the 11th inning

The goal is to keep games as short as possible, right? That’s why we have seven-inning doubleheader contests and freebie runners on second starting in the 10th inning. Let’s take it a step further, even if it might not come into play often. 

Only one game so far in 2020 has made it past 11 innings. The Astros and Dodgers played 13 innings on July 29; neither team scored in the 10th or 12th, both scored a single run in the 11th. In the top of the 13th, the Dodgers scored twice, then kept the Astros from crossing the plate in the bottom of the frame.  

Why not get crazy? So, starting in the 12th inning, let’s put a runner on third base instead of second. Keeping with the beer-league softball theme, though, let’s start the count at 1-1, with one ball and one strike. Force the action quicker. Create a heightened sense of urgency!

Everyone gets to second base!

If we’re magically putting runners on second base for extra innings already — even as I type that, it’s still hard to believe that’s a real rule being used in MLB games — why not expand that idea? 

Starting with the seventh inning (and, I guess, fifth for doubleheader games?), every time a pitcher walks a batter, that batter goes to second, not first. Make the pitchers throw strikes. More strikes leads to more runs and more runs in late innings are better, right? 

Oh, and here’s another one: Any time a batter is hit with a pitch above the shoulders, at any point during the game, send the batter to second base, not first. Better yet: Any time the umpire deems that a pitcher throws at a batter’s head — whether he hits him or not — the batter gets to advance to second. So, when Joe Kelly threw behind Alex Bregman’s head, Bregman would have gone to second. 

Here’s the only serious thing I’ll actually say today: MLB has to stop the head-hunting, and Joe Kelly’s eight-game suspension was a wonderful step in the right direction. 

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