MLB 2021: Will These 3 Rule Changes Become a Permanent Part of Baseball?

Ahead of the truncated 2020 Major League Baseball season, Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLB Players Association negotiated a set of rule changes that would be implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While these rules had been discussed prior to the global crisis, the league felt the shortened season would be a perfect time to experiment with these adjustments in order to gain some feedback.. The looming question is this: will these new rules — some of which are frowned upon by players and coaches — become a permanent part of the game? Let’s take a look.

Universal Designated Hitter

One of the biggest differences between the American and National leagues is the use of a designated hitter. While teams in the AL slot their biggest slugger in the lineup in lieu of the pitcher, the NL allows pitchers to hit.

Advocates of the DH say it makes the game more exciting since pitchers typically lack skill to connect with the baseball. Those who abhor the DH say it allows for more strategy.. For the 2020 season, however, both leagues implemented the designated hitter, making the difference in the leagues seemingly absent.. While this was just a temporary measure, there’s a strong possibility that the league-wide DH will become a permanent fixture of the game. The league wants more action and less down town. The DH accomplishes both.

Runner on Second in Extra Innings

Although this rule was already implemented in the minor leagues, placing a runner on second at the start of each extra inning find a place in the majors.

Since the league was trying to fit a 60-game season into a tight schedule, it was of high priority to keep game-length at a minimum. At the start of each half inning after the ninth, the batting team placed a runner on second base. This increased the chances of scoring runs and ending the game earlier.. Giving teams a free runner in scoring position wasn’t looked upon with favor among players and coaches. Nonetheless, the league moved forward with the motion.. Verdict: this rule will be forever inked into the MLB rule book. The league is already making “pace of play” changes to speed up the game. The runner-on-second rule furthers this initiative.

Expanded Playoffs

Prior to the 2012 MLB season, the playoffs consisted of four teams from each league — three division winners and a wildcard. On Nov. 17, 2011, MLB announced that it would be adding two wildcard teams — one from each league — to the postseason.

League officials took another step forward in 2020, sending a total of 16 teams to the playoffs, eight from each league. The two best teams from each division along with two wildcards were eligible for the postseason.. While this new rule was implemented to give all teams an equal chance at making it into the playoffs during the shortened season, it’s unlikely that it will be retained — at least in its current state.. As Major League Baseball looks to add expansion teams within the next five years or so, the playoffs will most certainly need adjusting. To what capacity is still up in the air.. While 16 playoff teams during a standard season may be a bit much, look for the league to add one more wildcard team from each league.