Major League Baseball announced a variety of experimental playing rules that are being tested during the 2022 Minor League season. They were approved by the Competition Committee and Playing Rules Committee, and designed to improve the pace of play, create more action and reduce injuries.
A pitch timer is being used at all full-season affiliates to create a faster pace, requiring batters to be ready to hit and pitchers to deliver the pitch within allotted periods of time.
With a runner on base, pitchers have extra time for each throw but risk automatic baserunner advancement if a third pick-off attempt or step-off within the same plate appearance is made without recording an out.
The rules were tested in Low-A West and Arizona Fall League games last season, leading to a reduction in average game time of more than 20 minutes.
Larger bases are also being used at all full-season affiliates this season in effort to reduce player injuries. The size of first base, second base and third base has been increased from 15 inches to 18 inches.
Larger bases were used in Triple-A and Arizona Fall League games last season, which not only decreased the severity of base-related injuries, but led to a modest increase in the rate of successful stolen base attempts.
MLB limiting shifts
In Double-A, High-A and Single-A games this season, a defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base.
These restrictions are intended to allow infielders to better showcase their athleticism, increase batting average on balls in play and restore a more traditional set of outcomes on batted balls.
Automated ball-strike technology additionally is being used in select Triple-A and Single-A Southeast games this season. ABS was used in the Atlantic League in 2019, and in select games in the Low-A Southeast and Arizona Fall League last year.
In Triple-A West games, umpires called balls and strikes through May 15 before the ABS system took over two days later. Furthermore, ABS is being used throughout the season in all Triple-A East games played in Charlotte.
In Single-A Southeast games, MLB will test a “Challenge” system in select games, which pitchers, catchers and batters have an ability to appeal the umpire’s call to the ABS system. In Challenge Games, each team will receive three appeals, and successful appeals will be retained.
“This year’s set of experimental rules was informed – and we believe improved – by the feedback of players, staff, umpires and fans, as well as by analysis of the impacts of last year’s tests,” MLB consultant Theo Epstein said.
“We are excited to roll out the improved rule experiments to a bigger population of minor league players in an effort to ensure that any potential new regulations fulfill their objectives of creating more action, athleticism and a better style of play.”
Atlantic League partnership
MLB also announced that it is continuing its partnership agreement with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (“ALPB”), which began in 2019. Among the rules that will be tested in Atlantic League games this season are the double-hook designated hitter adjustment and dropped pitch.
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