As you’re no doubt aware, Major League Baseball and the independent Atlantic League recently entered into a three-year agreement in which the Atlantic League will adopt experimental rules suggested by Major League Baseball to study their effects on game play. The Atlantic League is now, basically, a guinea pig.
The most talked-about changes to date have been the idea of banning defensive shifts, moving the pitching rubber back a couple of feet to mitigate hard-throwing pitchers which have led to a strikeout boom and to work with electronic ball-and-strike calls. Today Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post talks about the inaccurately-called “robot umpires” but in the course of doing do mentions another experiment that is way, way farther out there:
In the second half of the season, the league will allow batters to steal first base: Any pitch on any count not caught in flight will be considered a live ball, and a batter may run to first base, similar to a dropped third strike.
I’m assuming the impulse is to increase game “action” and to make up for the lack of non-homer hits in the game by allowing runners to reach base on plays that are more exciting than walks. Maybe that helps, but I presume that, if it was ever widely implemented, it would select hard for defensive-oriented catchers at the expense of catchers who can hit. Given that we’re already at an all-time nadir for catchers hitting I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but maybe it’ll be made up for by it selecting for control pitchers. There are always unintended and unexpected consequences for any change.
That aside: Did anyone who actually enjoys baseball ask for this? I realize that hasn’t stopped MLB before, but I am genuinely curious who came up with this idea.