Atlantic League Removing Automated Ball-Strike System, But Keeping Some Experimental MLB Rules

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB) announced it is changing the distance of the pitching rubber to home plate back to 60 feet, six inches, and will resume having home-plate umpires call balls and strikes for the 2022 season.

The Atlantic League pitching rubber distances were moved back one foot to 61’6” for the second half of the 2021 season as part of its partnership with MLB to experiment with rule changes.

MLB hoped the extra foot would help batters put balls in play more frequently, but data and feedback suggested it didn’t have much of an effect.

The automated ball-strike (ABS) system debuted in the Atlantic League during the second half of the 2019 season and continued to be tested throughout the 2021 campaign. Following its trial in the Atlantic League, ABS is now expected to be used in an MLB affiliated league.

The Atlantic League returning to the norm doesn’t mean MLB is abandoning these rules for good as they could still find their way to the Majors someday.

The Atlantic League also announced that it will keep several other rule changes moving forward, including the 17-inch larger bases, a ban on shifts and an automatic runner at second base to begin extra innings.

MLB first started testing new experimental rules in Atlantic League games during the 2019 season and last year extended their agreement to continue doing so through 2023.

“I do think that it should be a tool as far as Minor League Baseball, because it is about development. It’s about getting guys ready for the big leagues,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last April.

“If you have to kind of throw in some trials, just because you’ve done something for so long, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. That philosophy I think holds true now in the sense of we haven’t always used Minor Leagues as a guinea pig, but I think to give us accurate information and data, I think it’s smart.”

Atlantic League to announce further rule changes later this spring

In the wake of these changes, the Atlantic League also revealed that additional rule experiments for the 2022 season will be announced later this spring.

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