MLB is always looking at ways to improve the game, from making the bases bigger, to adding a pitch clock, to limiting the defensive shifts. Although those won’t be coming into effect this year, they are being tested in the minor leagues. But here are a few changes that did make it into the rule books this year.
Playoff Rule Changes
One of the more welcome changes will be in the playoffs. The league is adding more teams to the post-season games. That is sure to be a big hit for the fans of teams that just miss the playoffs each year. Post-season action is expanding from ten teams to twelve. That equates to three division winners and three Wild Card teams per league.
The first round will have four best-of-three series. The two “traditional” Wild Card teams will play each other, while the third Wild Card club will play the division winner with the worst record. The winners of those series will move on to the best-of-five Division series against the other two division winners.
The remainder of the playoffs stays the same with a best-of-seven League Championship Series followed by the World Series.
This expanded post-season will also be a big hit for bookies and bettors as there’s always more betting going on during the playoffs.
A Lingering COVID Rule
A rule that came about during the shorter season last year was the automatic runner on second base in extra innings rule. It was supposed to be gone this year, but according to mlb.com, this rule is back in place. If you don’t know about the rule, whenever a game goes into extra innings, each team starts their half of the inning at-bat with a runner on second base.
This rule came up during the pandemic because MLB crammed a grueling 60-game schedule into just two months. They didn’t want to tax the bullpen more than they already were, so they added this rule to speed up those extra innings games.
Why is this rule still in now that we’re back to an entire 162-game season? It’s part of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s mission to speed up the game’s pace to make it more exciting for the younger fans.
There are many opponents to this rule as they say it can take the excitement out of the game. For example, a guy hits a single and gets a run-in. For the critics, thankfully, there aren’t that many extra-inning games in a season. I wonder what kind of bets will come out of this rule.
Other Notable Rule Changes
- One of the things that won’t be sticking around from the last couple of years is seven-inning double-headers. This year we’re going back to the full nine-inning double-headers.
- A notable change in the pitching category is something that has been a long time coming for many fans. The designated hitter is officially in both leagues. We no longer have to watch pitchers struggle to perform when they have a bat in hand. But there is one notable exception that has caused a slight modification to the rule. Shohei Ohtani, the pitcher and designated hitter for the LA Angels, will still get to hit. On days he starts as a pitcher, he can leave the mound and still be in the lineup as a designated hitter.
- At the end of the season, the worst team in the league will no longer benefit by getting the top pick in next year’s Draft. Going forward, the first six picks of the MLB Draft will be decided by a lottery. And all 18 clubs that didn’t make the post-season have an equal chance to win in that lottery.
With the full 162-game season back and the expanded post-season, bookies and bettors alike will have an exciting summer to look forward to.
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