Several rule and equipment changes will be tested in the Atlantic League by Major League Baseball in 2019, including TrackMan-assisted umpires and new mound visit limits. This is part of a new partnership between the two leagues.
As was announced late last month, MLB and the independent Atlantic League have entered into a three-year partnership which will allow MLB to test rule and equipment changes in the Atlantic League. Initial results of that partnership will be evident in 2019, with MLB experimenting with some technology and pace-of-play initiatives.
The TrackMan radar system will assist home plate umpires in calling balls and strikes, while mound visits will be limited to pitching changes and medical issues. In addition, MLB will test a three-batter minimum for pitchers–one of many pace-of-play initiatives being discussed for possible implementation at the major-league level–as well as shortened time limits for pitching changes and between-inning breaks, increased base sizes, and other initiatives. In addition, the distance from the pitching rubber to home plate will increase by two feet, but that change will only be implemented in the Atlantic League’s second half. A full list of changes is below:
- 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
MLB will analyze the effects of these changes before deciding on potential additional modifications during the 2019 Atlantic League All-Star Break and in future seasons.
“This first group of experimental changes is designed to create more balls in play, defensive action, baserunning, and improve player safety,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s Senior Vice President, League Economics & Operations. “We look forward to seeing them in action in the Atlantic League.”
“Players sign in the Atlantic League for the Major League Baseball showcase opportunity it offers,” said Rick White, ALPB President. “We are excited to see that showcase grow exponentially, while working with MLB on initiatives critical to the future of the game.”
In addition to the aforementioned changes, the new three-year partnership covers the transfer of players from the Atlantic League to MLB and is intended to enhance MLB’s scouting coverage of the independent league’s games. MLB will provide statistical and radar tracking data from Atlantic League games to MLB Clubs.
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