MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been working over the past few years on ways to improve pace of play. Adding a pitch clock and limiting mound visits per game haven’t exactly been effective. Now, Manfred and his team may have come up with something that will not only shorten the game, but will change the overall strategy and style of when to bring relievers into the game.
The new rule dictates that pitchers who come into the game in relief will be required to face at least three batters or finish the half-inning. The implementation of this rule has been rather polarizing around the baseball world, simply because it will drastically change the way managers manage their bullpens. No manager has ever had to worry about keeping their chosen reliever in for a certain amount of time.
Here’s a quick review of every rule change that will begin in 2020.
The Yankees have one of the largest analytics teams in baseball, and they rely on them heavily. Ever since they established their super-bullpen, they have been highly selective in choosing which pitchers to bring in during certain scenarios. For example, in any particular game, the Yankees might use three or four relievers just to get through innings six through nine.
Each decision to bring in a new pitcher nowadays is based on matchups, which could mean several different things. It could be based on the pitcher’s handedness or even how a particular batter hits against specific pitches. So the Yankees, a very analytically-sound team, will use all this information to their advantage and will break down each at-bat and matchup. This strategy will have to change it 2020, as the days of picking one pitcher to face one batter are over.
How they will do that is yet to be seen, however, one thing is clear: adding Gerrit Cole to this starting staff will alleviate at least a small percentage of the growing pains the Yankees will face with this rule in 2020.
Cole pitched 212.1 innings in 2019, good for the fourth-most in the league. The Yankees have not had a pitcher reach 200 innings since CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda in 2013. The league was indeed different then, but now, with starting pitchers only lasting about five or six innings, it is rare to find a workhorse pitcher like Cole. You may be able to guess where this is going. Adding a pitcher who is capable of this can not only just save bullpen arms, but it can eliminate having to even worry about the rule in general.
Countless times in 2019, we’d see J.A. Happ or Masahiro Tanaka last only five innings, leaving four innings of work for the bullpen to cover. Now, the Yankees will have Cole, Luis Severino, and James Paxton, all ace-worthy pitchers who can last at least through six innings on a good night. We’ll find out how Aaron Boone will handle this new rule on a nightly basis come next year, however adding Cole can only help in this scenario.