Thursday, March 11, 2021

MLB Announces Experimental MiLB Rules for 2021 Season

MLB issued a press release formally announcing several experimental rules for Minor League Baseball's 2021 season, splitting up the tests by level of play such that Low-A through Triple-A will each try out different changes this summer.

Citing fan preferences—"We are listening to our fans" according to MLB Senior VP of On-Field Operations Michael Hill—MLB announced the following changes for MiLB in 2021, a new-look minor league system after MLB restructured its entire operation during last year's extended offseason and the end of its last agreement with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, as elucidated in the BallPark Digest article "RIP Minor League Baseball: 1901-2020" in which MLB's plan to eliminate up to 42 teams is revealed.

And when teams go away, so too do the umpires who would have been assigned to those games.

As for the 2021 MiLB experiments, by level, they are as follows:

> Triple-A: Larger Bases, from 15 to 18 square inches, which corresponds to a 44% in base size. MLB cites a desire to reduce player injuries and collisions; this is not the first time MLB discussed increasing base size for that purpose and tested this in the Atlantic League in 2019.
Related PostAtlantic League Debuts New Rules, E-Zone (7/10/19).

> Double-A: Defensive Position restrictions, e.g., elimination of the shift, also from the 2019 Atlantic Lg.
> High-A: Step Off Rule requires pitchers disengage rubber prior to throwing to a base or face the penalty of a balk. This is another Atlantic League innovation from 2019.
> Low-A: Limit pitcher step/pick offs to two per plate appearance. After that, a third pickoff attempt during the same plate appearance that does not retire a runner will result in a balk call.
> Low-A Southeast: Implementation of Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS), the robot/electronic strike zone technology previously seen in the Atlantic League.
> Low-A West: Various pace of play initiatives, such as pitch clock time limit enforcement/new rules.

MLB announced it implemented the new rules "consistent with the preferences of our fans," who took to twitter shortly thereafter to express their dissatisfaction with the news by writing things such as "Fire Manfred into the sun" and "The only thing MLB hates more than baseball is baseball fans."

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: MLB's Experimental Rules for Minors Broken Out By Level (CCS)


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