With MLB Players Association President Tony Clark in front of a large group of players the work newsletter This week, there was an opportunity for the media to ask him for any updates on discussions with the league about rule changes for next year.
As it was revealed last monthThese discussions mainly focus on pitch clock, limiting defensive turnovers, and larger rules, and the 11-member Competition Committee (six from management, five from players, and one from the referee) is currently examining these issues. We know that the commissioner has secured in the CBA the right to unilaterally implement these changes with 45 days’ notice, but said he would prefer there to be some level of agreement from players. It is still being determined whether they will get there.
Unfortunately, Clark’s public comments this week He really didn’t shed much light on the subject, other than emphasizing these three areas—the pitch clock, shift constraints, and larger rules—were still being discussed, without his hand inclined to the player’s feelings. Like I said, it might not matter what the players feel at the end of the day, but I’d definitely like to know which direction the wind was blowing.
Having said that, we get a little hint about one of the three topics in some follow-up work More at The Athletic by Ken Rosenthal.
Rosenthal, whose department simply titles, “Bigger Rules Coming,” tells how the increased rules seem to be doing well in the smaller leagues this year:[E]Expanding the bases from 15 inches square to 18 inches square has received less attention. But Major League Baseball, in experimenting with the larger rules at every minor league level this season, appears to be having the desired effect — a boost in the running game.”
In fact, as Rosenthal notes, both plagiarized base attempts and the success rate go up significantly at every minor league level as the larger bases are studied, which is every level except for the rookie ball. In the rookie ball, both numbers lowest. So this is not just a matter of widespread industry trend in the minor leagues. Almost certainly because of the rules.
These larger bases reduce the distance between the first and second base, for example, by 4.5 inches, which definitely seems like a big difference when you consider the number of close tag runs we see in the second base. Furthermore, on something I haven’t thought of: an increase of 1.5 inches closer from first base to the main board means a very small increase in hits on the playing field, which in turn could cause players to have to play less deep, which in turn would increase the overall BABIP.
Then, of course, there’s the health and safety component, which Rosenthal doesn’t share any data on, but is reasonable enough to accommodate (a little more room to work with, especially on first base, could lead to fewer collisions). Also, the new bases appear to be made of a different material, designed to reduce slippage at the base. I’d love to hear that.
all in all, The section reads a lot like the title: larger bases to come. All ears are all ears if there are a few flaws that haven’t been revealed yet, but this seems to be one of those subtle changes that can happen as subtle – but positive! Impact on safety, field work, and return of the stolen base.
also? I guess that could make fast guys a little more valuable, right?