MLB/Atlantic league to experiment with the idea of stealing first base

soxhop411

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Buried in this WaPo article is this nugget:

The experiment is part of a three-year agreement with MLB that allowed big league officials to install experimental rules in the Atlantic League to study their effects on game play, strategy, tempo and prospect development. In return, MLB promised to “enhance its scouting coverage of the Atlantic League” and to install hardware to enable advanced analytical study of players.

Some of those rule changes include a prohibition against mound visits, a ban of defensive shifts, a three-batter minimum for new pitchers and larger bases (18-by-18 inches, rather than 15-by-15). In the second half of the season, the league will allow batters to steal first base: Any pitch on any count not caught in flight will be considered a live ball, and a batter may run to first base, similar to a dropped third strike.

A rule like this would put an even greater emphasis on a catchers defensive abilities, while also possibly changing pitching strategy for faster players (perhaps being less likely to throw pitches in the dirt/chase pitches)
 

loshjott

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I saw this earlier and the mind boggles about how the details would work. Too many judgement calls by the ump to determine if a runner is actually breaking to first or just takes a step and then stops. And the ultimate result would be more fastballs and fewer breaking balls, meaning more offense and longer games.

My son, a HS catcher, would absolutely hate this.
 

BoSox Rule

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Every experimental rule is seemingly designed to make me stop watching baseball.
 

loshjott

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If they really want to speed up the game with this rule, make it so the PA is over and a batter has to run to first on every pitch in the dirt. [/sarcasm]
 

maufman

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Can’t see the MLBPA getting behind a rule change that would increase wear-and-tear on catchers by forcing them to go all-out to block pitches in the dirt when there’s no one on base. So I’m not too worried that this stupid idea will get any traction.
 

DrewDawg

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If they really want to speed up the game with this rule, make it so the PA is over and a batter has to run to first on every pitch in the dirt. [/sarcasm]
Not sure how this would speed up the game. It would slow it down. More runners, fewer breaking pitches, etc.

Granted there are not a lot of dropped third strikes, but introducing it on EVERY pitch is dumb. I feel like they are trying to introduce more strategy and/or potential outcomes--but right now it's a 3 true outcome game. A lot of it is launch angle stuff, but if any of if it "juiced ball" related, then figure that out.
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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I saw this earlier and the mind boggles about how the details would work. Too many judgement calls by the ump to determine if a runner is actually breaking to first or just takes a step and then stops. And the ultimate result would be more fastballs and fewer breaking balls, meaning more offense and longer games.

My son, a HS catcher, would absolutely hate this.
Yeah, what happens when a batter thinks it's ball four and starts to first, only for the umpire to call a strike?

And how does it help MLB scout talent if shifts are banned? Shouldn't teams be looking for players who know how to hit against what has become a common defensive tactic?
 

OurF'ingCity

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Not sure how this would speed up the game. It would slow it down. More runners, fewer breaking pitches, etc.
No question. Not only that, but there would be more arguments/delays/etc. as umpires tried to determine, for example, whether someone stepped out of the box and started running to first or whether they were just trying to avoid being hit with the ball or whatever. This one, more than perhaps any other proposed new rule, seems to be a solution in need of a problem.
 

Harry Hooper

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How about if you cross the plate standing up, that counts for 2 runs instead of just one? Think of the real-time strategy that will be involved. The increased possibility of being tagged out vs. getting an extra run. Fans can flood sports talk radio with discussions of the questionable decision to slide made by Biff Loggy in last night's game.

{Not a real proposal...yet.}
 

loshjott

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Not sure how this would speed up the game. It would slow it down. More runners, fewer breaking pitches, etc.

Granted there are not a lot of dropped third strikes, but introducing it on EVERY pitch is dumb. I feel like they are trying to introduce more strategy and/or potential outcomes--but right now it's a 3 true outcome game. A lot of it is launch angle stuff, but if any of if it "juiced ball" related, then figure that out.
My post was pure sarcasm but if a batter HAD to run to first on every ball in the dirt you'd see pitchers and catchers mastering the 58 foot one bounce fastball and each PA would have one pitch only.
 

uncannymanny

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It's stupid and won't happen, but it's kind of interesting IMO. The batter ostensibly takes a risk on a "steal" of first, as they could find themselves out having run on counts like 1-0. I wouldn't mind this if it was another sport.
 

PseuFighter

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I would think this hurts knuckleballers too. Anyone have a breakdown of % of types of pitches that make it past the catcher?
 

chawson

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If you can steal first base, then Billy Hamilton suddenly has a career again.
I think this could be a good outcome. Increasing the number of skill sets that could be successful at the game is a good thing, in my opinion. The bad thing in baseball is sameness.

I’m not sure how the stat would count, but say something like this effectively adds 20 “singles” to Billy Hamilton’s otherwise bad 2018 season. He’s then a .276/.335/.367 hitter who plays excellent defense and steals 40 bags. That’s a valuable player, and probably a more dynamic and interesting one to watch than, say, Jorge Soler.
 

Cumberland Blues

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My son, a HS catcher, would absolutely hate this.
It's a dumb rule that I would hope has no chance of taking hold...but my son is also a HS catcher and he would love the added emphasis on catcher's defense this rule creates. He's also opposed to robot strike zones because he likes that good framers are rewarded, while acknowledging that robot strike zones are likely coming and for the better - he says "good for baseball, bad for catchers."
 

Joe D Reid

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I like the idea of coming up with new rules designed to reflect the changes in how the game is played. This is not that; this is a solution in search of a problem.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Come on, I am a traditionalist, but this isn't that bad. First of all, nobody is going to try to to run to first on a pitch that bounces a few feet from the catcher, they'd be gunned down easily. Nothing would happen on those. The catcher would have to hustle after it, big deal.

If a pitch goes all the way to the backstop, a fast runner could take off for first, and the catcher still might throw him out. The hitter has to make a split-second decision, and there will probably be a close play at first, and it's more interesting than yet another K or walk.

This rule would come into play maybe once or twice a game, and it'd be more interesting than another long at-bat with multiple foul tips that ends up as a walk anyway.

This is way better than the banning of shifts or the 3-batter minimum.

Now if they really want to make a big change, let the batter steal first anytime he wants, but if he ever steps out of the batter's box he can be tagged out. That would put a top to all of the stepping out of the box that is the real problem.
 
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cornwalls@6

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Like most of them, I doubt this ever sees the light of day at the MLB level. Feels way too gimmicky, and as noted up thread, would cause huge problems in umpiring it. Honestly, pitch clock, universal DH, enforcing batters staying in the box more rigorously, and limiting mound visits all make sense to me. The rest feel like goofy shit that alters the fundamental way the game was designed to be played way too much.
 
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Awesome Fossum

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I'm all for testing new ideas, even probably dumb ones. I really doubt this one has any impact, but I'll be interested to see how it plays out.
 

InstaFace

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I'm on board with the 3-batter minimum (injuries excepted), and banning mound visits. But the change that's desperately needed is actual enforcement of the pitch clock.
 

YTF

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Papa John's must be salivating over the idea of four stolen bases in one plate appearance. The Papa Steal. Seriously why would they even want to entertain XFL type gimmicks? The rate that pitchers are racking up Ks (that's probably more on the hitters than the pitchers) and the home run barrage aren't enough to keep fans engaged? Yeah, I know...pace of play, but I can't see this as any sort of partial solution. Had the AB continued, the runner who now stands at first base may have made an out which in turn means prolonging the game by giving the offense an extra out and who knows how many addition hitters before the inning is completed.
 
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drbretto

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I'm also ok with testing anything out. It's not like they're going to implement it in MLB tomorrow or anything, so it's perfectly fine to explore it.

It could make for the occasional memorable play. That's about the extent of the upside I can see. Not sure I see a problem that it's fixing or anything. But, let them test things and see what does and doesn't work. It won't catch on unless it's worth it.
 
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It would be great if the runner would have to be tagged out just like they're stealing second or third. This could lead to the hilarious spectacle of getting into a rundown and sliding back into home the wrong way. Then they could just resume their at bat as though nothing happened.
 

Spelunker

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They will do every crazy thing they can think of to avoid implementing a real pitch clock.
 

lexrageorge

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Still wondering what problem would be solved here. Baseball has enough scoring as it is.
 

Harry Hooper

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It would be great if the runner would have to be tagged out just like they're stealing second or third. This could lead to the hilarious spectacle of getting into a rundown and sliding back into home the wrong way. Then they could just resume their at bat as though nothing happened.
Now this is making the idea a bit more interesting.
 

Salem's Lot

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The pitchers take too long to throw the ball and it makes people tune it out or get bored and stop watching. All of these other ideas are just window dressing because they don’t want to stand up to the union and implement a clock.
 

E5 Yaz

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My wife would like three foul balls after reaching a two-strike count to be equivalent to strike three. Can we get her a job with MLB?
 

Pandarama

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Eh, if your pitch makes contact with the batter’s uniform, you’ve already just put a guy on base. It’s part and parcel of pitching inside.
 

Devizier

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Honestly, I like the knuckleball and this rule change probably kills it. I don’t have any other real objection.
 

DanoooME

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If it's a "stolen base", how is it scored? If you lumped it in with the stolen bases (and caught stealing), then how do you get a plate appearance? It would just mess up the scorecards, unless you created an all-new stat just for this that would count it as a PA like a BB, HBP or SF. Which is the last thing we need since the last few counting stats (holds, blown saves, etc.) suck ass.
 

oumbi

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For stealing first base, is the runner out by a tag or a throw to first as with ground balls? Can the runner return to home plate and continue the at bat if the former? For example, catcher drops the ball and it rolls a few feet. The runner takes off towards first, as the catcher picks up the ball and throws to first, could the runner simply stop advancing towards first and run/slide back into home plate, and then resume the at bat?
 

The Gray Eagle

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This suggested rule isn't nearly as complicated and weird as some of you are making it. It basically already partially exists-- when a hitter strikes out and the ball gets away from the catcher, he can run to first if it's unoccupied.

This rule would give the hitter the option of trying to run to first with less than 2 strikes too. It's pretty rare that a hitter actually makes it safely after striking out, and it would be pretty rare that a batter would try this with less than 2 strikes if he could. Maybe you get a shorter at-bat a couple times a game, with a couple close plays at first.

Is this rule needed? Not particularly. Is it a complete disaster that would ruin everything? Of course not. Could it make for a couple more interesting plays a game that reward fast runners or catchers with strong arms? Maybe. We'll find out if they test it.
 

SocrManiac

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I would guess I'm at least part of the target audience for these rule changes. Baseball has transitioned from being the focus of my life to a background item to not present at all. I used to plan my life around making sure I had access to some form of active viewing/listening. I slowed down to where I would at least have the radio on in the background if not the TV tuned to NESN. They lost me when it became totally untenable for me to consistently see or hear the end of east coast games and function the next day.

I need to echo posters above. (Re)expanding the audience is tied to the pitch clock and commercial breaks. The other window dressing may or may not expand individual enjoyment, but it isn't tied to the root problem. The games are too damn long and there's too much downtime.

I genuinely wonder if the NFL would be suffering similar issues these days if not for the existence of Red Zone and the fact the majority of games are daytime Sundays. The commercial breaks are as numerous. The replays have more content between snaps, but there's similar downtime over a three and a half hour window.
 

DrewDawg

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By the way, there are 3 more rules they are trying out:

1-pitcher must step off rubber to attempt pick-off
2-one foul bunt with 2 strikes is allowed
3-check swing rule is more batter-friendly

So, every rule is geared towards more offense. None of these would reduce game time.
 

YTF

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If it happens twice a game you’d cut down the length of two ab’s. Maybe shave 3-4 mins off a game.
And should it happen a couple of times a game, MLB can't even be sure that they've shortened the game. As I said upthread they actually might be lengthening the game if the runner on first had continued his AB and made an out. In effect they may possibly be giving the offense a fourth out. Who knows how many additional hitters may come to the plate as a result of that and if that happens additional hitters might bring and additional pitching change. Of course it would never be known what the result of that AB would have been had the batter completed it, but for argument's sake, a .350 OBP would mean there is a 65% that he makes an out
 

Cumberland Blues

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I think this is more about "pace of game" than "time of game" - it shortens some at bats, but probably adds offense so any time saved by shortening the AB is lost to extra offense as YTF points out. And it adds time to the individual pitch that this occurs on, as it's surely quicker for the catcher to just reach back for the ump to hand him a ball than it is for him to chase the ball down and try to throw the guy out. This isn't saving any time - just creating more action.

Also, keep in mind it's not just strikes - it's *any* ball not caught. What of the occasional wild pitch that ends up on top of the screen? Does the batter automatically get first base? Or only if he broke toward first before the ball went out of play? Is there data anywhere on how many would-be passed balls and wild pitches there are that don't get counted now because there's no base runner to advance? I've a hunch this is going to come into play more than people think. I'm not sure at all what made someone think this was a good idea - but I suspect it dies a quick death once they start seeing some of the unintended consequences.