MLB and Atlantic League Announce Experimental Rule Changes for 2019 Season

We are going to see some aggressive new ideas in the Atlantic League this season as part of that circuit’s partnership with Major League Baseball. The rules changes include:

  • Home plate umpire assisted in calling balls and strikes by a TrackMan radar tracking system
  • No mound visits permitted by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues
  • Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters, or reach the end of an inning before they exit the game, unless the pitcher becomes injured
  • Increase size of 1st, 2nd and 3rd base from 15 inches square to 18 inches square
  • Require two infielders to be on each side of second base when a pitch is released (if not, the ball is dead and the umpire shall call a ball)
  • Time between innings and pitching changes reduced from 2:05 to 1:45
  • Distance from pitching rubber to home plate extended 24 inches, in the second half of the season only; with no change to mound height or slope

Some of these I expected. Reducing mound visits, restricting defensive shifts, and requiring pitchers to face three batters have been suggested at the Major League level as part of the ongoing conversations about improving the pace of play.

I didn’t expect to see robot umpires or moving the pitching mound back two feet. That said, this is why I was excited when MLB and the Atlantic League announced this partnership: it is a great way to test the impact of some of the more radical ideas to get a feel for how they would impact the game.