MLB is adding a ton of new rules for the 2020 season. Not all of them are major changes, but they all have an effect on the New York Mets.
Major League Baseball has introduced a host of rule changes for 2020. In fact, no one season has experienced such a drastic number of rule changes in quite some time. There are six new rules that will affect the game in a number of ways, all with the purpose of quickening the game.
This has been Rob Manfred’s mission since he took over as commissioner—quicken the games while ramping up the excitement. The issue is that umpires haven’t been enforcing the rules already put in place to speed up the game.
For example, batters, by rule, aren’t allowed to step out of the box anymore. They’re supposed to always have at least one foot in the box. That rule exists to keep batters from stalling out at-bats, which lengthens the game. Umpires haven’t enforced that rule.
So instead of just enforcing the rules already in place, Manfred has introduced his new rules.
With those new rules incoming, it’s important to look at how they’ll actually impact the game, and, of course, the New York Mets.
The three-batter minimum is by far the most substantial rule change. Whenever a pitcher enters a game, he’ll have to face at least three batters before another change can be made. There are only two exceptions to this rule: injury or the pitcher recording the final out of the inning.
This takes away the traditional roles of many relief pitchers. The LOOGY, or left-handed one-out guy, has essentially been eliminated from the game. Gone are the days of pitchers like Luis Avilan and Jerry Blevins.
The Mets have taken this into account as they’ve constructed their bullpen. As their 2020 bullpen stands, there is only one (maybe two) lefty. Justin Wilson is the only guaranteed lefty in the bullpen and he can get people from both sides out.
The Mets also only signed one left-handed reliever in free agency, Chasen Shreve. Shreve has reverse splits for his career, meaning he’s better against righties than lefties.
Since the Mets didn’t have any single out pitchers under contract past the 2019 season, this rule doesn’t have a huge effect on them in that way. It does impact their bullpen, though.
Luis Rojas is going to have be extra careful when he makes his bullpen decision this year. This is a tough rule change for a first-time manager.
The 26-man roster is also a substantial change. MLB made this rule change to allow teams to carry both an eight-man bullpen and a five-man bench. It also allows more players in the majors, a big win for the MLBPA.
For the New York Mets, that means carrying a backup middle infielder on their roster. They’ve carried an eight-man bullpen for years now, which has limited them to a four-man bench.
Last year, that meant not having a backup middle infielder on their everyday roster. When Robinson Cano got hurt, the Mets needed to call up Adeiny Hechavarria. Then they needed to call up Luis Guillorme later in the year.
Amed Rosario played in 157 games last year. He missed just five games, in large part because he didn’t have a backup who could give him any rest. That will change with the 26-man roster.
It will allow the Mets to carry J.D. Davis/Yoenis Cespedes, Dom Smith, Tomas Nido, Jake Marisnick and a utility infielder. It will most likely be Guillorme, but it could be Max Moroff or potentially someone who’s not on the current roster.
28-man roster (September)
The 28-man September roster was the trade-off the MLBPA had to make for the 26-man roster. Now MLB teams won’t have to pay MLB wages to potentially 40 players in September anymore. Instead, they’re capped at 28.
This won’t hurt or help the New York Mets. It might hurt their prospects since many of them won’t get a short taste of the majors in September—a taste they weren’t likely to get in 2020 with the Mets likely to be contending for a playoff spot.
This is a rule that will affect the Mets in the future. It’s inconsequential for the 2020 season.
Position players pitching
This is actually two rules. One rule says that position players can’t pitch until extra innings, or their team is winning or losing by at least six runs. The second rule is the two-way player designation, which allows a team to name a player both a pitcher and a position player. That way teams can carry nine pitchers.
A player only qualifies as a two-way player if they have pitched at least 20 innings in a season and made at least 20 starts, minimum three at-bats, in a season. Only two players currently qualify, Shohei Ohtani and Michael Lorenzen.
Believe it or not, this rule actually does affect the Mets. J.D. Davis has been known to pitch and he’s taken some reps pitching in spring training this year. His fastball can touch as high as 94 mph and sits in the low 90s.
He pitched in 2.2 innings for the Astros over 2017 and 2018. He didn’t pitch for the Mets in 2019, but that had more to do with needing his bat in the game than anything else.
It’s possible the Mets try to stretch Davis out in 2020 to become a two-way player by having him pitch a ton this season in blowouts and extra-inning games. That way, they get an extra pitcher for 2021 and beyond.
Injured List period
MLB made some minor changes to the injured list rules. Position players are subjected to the same rules as last year, they have a 10-day IL stint. Pitchers and two-way players, on the other hand, now have a 15-day IL stint.
The rule is meant to keep teams from abusing the IL by placing a relief pitcher on IL and calling up a new one just to give a pitcher some rest. This punishes that by forcing teams to wait an extra five days to recall that pitcher.
This will impact the Mets in 2020. Every team deals with injuries, especially in the bullpen. The Mets won’t be able to send struggling relief pitchers to the IL as easily anymore, meaning they’ll likely stick with them longer.
Considering the Mets already have one of the most volatile bullpens in MLB, this could equal disaster. Nobody wants to see the Mets run out a struggling relief pitcher even more then they did in 2019.
This just screams disaster with the new three-batter minimum rule. Strong relief pitching is getting more valuable by the year.
MLB has reduced the number of times teams have to issue a challenge. Last season, it was 30 seconds; it will be 20 seconds for 2020.
This will likely affect the Mets since they have a first-time manager, but it shouldn’t play a major role. Most challenges that succeed are done nearly immediately anyway.
This is just another way for MLB to try and shave time off the game.