Baseball is a game of strategy and the MLB rules changes are no exception. In today’s blog post, we’ll explore the impact of two of the most talked-about MLB rules changes – the pitch clock and the elimination of the infield shift – and how they could affect the effectiveness of some relievers and the number of double plays the Astros turn.
The new pitch clock rule has been the subject of much debate, with some arguing that it gives an advantage to pitchers and others claiming it takes away from the thought process of hitting. But what about the effect it has on pitchers? Could it affect the velocity of their pitches?
The answer is yes. According to a 2017 Five Thirty-Eight article, for every additional second a pitcher spends up to 20 seconds, they throw about .02 miles per hour harder. This is particularly true for relief pitchers who throw max effort, and can use the “rest” between pitches to uncoil higher velocity fastballs.
In addition, a TCB reader asked if eliminating the infield shift will reduce the number of double plays the Astros turn. It turns out, the answer is not so clear-cut. On one hand, banning the shift lets the defenders get to more groundballs, which provides more opportunities for a double play. On the other hand, the players’ positioning in the shift frequently makes the double play more difficult to turn.
Interestingly, a simple test of the relationship between shifts and double plays revealed that the percentage of left-handed plate appearances with a shift is inversely correlated with double plays per 9. This suggests that infield shifts may reduce the number of double plays.
Finally, the reader asked how the Astros’ emphasis on ground ball pitching will be hurt. The Astros pitching staff was actually 16th in groundball percent (42.7%). So while the team may have a few pitchers with an extremely high groundball percentage, they are not necessarily emphasizing groundball pitching.
All in all, the MLB rules changes have the potential to have a major impact on the game. So stay tuned to see how the league and its players will adjust to these changes.