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3 Batter Minimum Rule Explained In MLB

By Ayush Khadka / 28 April 2023 05:21 AM

This new pitcher batter regulation started in the 2020 season.
Source : twitter

3 Batter Minimum Rule explains that every pitcher has to face at least three batters before a new pitcher can enter the game. The rule started in 2020.

A pitcher is an integral player in the baseball franchise who is responsible for throwing the ball to the catcher to strike a batter out. There will be a starting pitcher who will open up the game, followed by relief pitchers, and ending with a closer. 

When a pitcher successfully creates three consecutive strikes, the batter is considered out and has to leave the field. Pitchers employ different styles like stretch or windup. They also employ different velocities and trajectories to gain the upper hand over the hitters. 

A great pitcher will be determined through his earned runs average, strikeouts, wild pitches, and walks per nine innings. A closer will also have the record for saves. Some pitchers can make complete games, while some will only play some innings.

MLB 3 Batter Rule

MLB three batter rule states that the pitcher needs to play against three batters in an appearance or at the end of a half inning before getting removed. 

This regulation will change the manager's reliever strategy.
Source : twitter

With this regulation, it becomes mandatory for the starting pitcher to play against three batters, so he has to conserve energy before the match. The MLB teams rotate their starters every match to help them regain their strength. 

There is an exceptional case when the pitchers get injured or have illnesses, if this occurs, another pitcher has to replace him immediately, and this rule will have no grounds to get implemented. This also applies to batters injured or falling ill during the match. 

With this rule introduction, the team managers must strategize more deeply since they cannot choose relief pitchers anytime soon. They are incentivized to be more selective now and choose who goes to pitch at what inning. 

When Did The 3 Batter Rule Start?

The rule was announced in February 2020 and had the purpose of shortening the game length during the Covid-19 pandemic. The MLB wanted to reduce the time taken by pitching changes. 

With the concern for the health and safety of athletes, the MLB sought to shorten the season by decreasing the innings of a doubleheader, making only 60 regular season games, and increasing the active roster to 26 men. 

Beginning in the spring training of the 2020 season on 12 March, the rule immediately went into effect. 

This rule brought a new problem for the relief pitchers, who now had to play three hitters. In the last seasons, the teams had expanded their bullpen and could utilize relievers anytime they wanted. 

What Happens If A Pitcher Is Pulled Before 3 Batters?

A Pitcher can be removed at the end of an inning before he faces all three batters. However, he will have to face the other two batters later on.

Pitchers now need greater energy to compulsorily play three hitters.
Source : twitter

For instance, if a pitcher goes out at the end of an inning, he can be deployed again in the third to continue facing the other hitters. 

The batter's plate appearances matter to count the pitcher's rule. For example, if the batter had only one plate appearance in the 2nd inning, he must complete two appearances in the 3rd inning for this rule to be fulfilled. 

There are some other factors that contribute to the fulfillment of batter requirements. Getting an intentional walk will count, while conducting a pick-off will not result in the rule's satisfaction. 

The Rule Led To A Bad Situation In St. Louis

The three-batter minimum faced a bad situation during the St. Louis Cardinals match against Philadelphia Phillies in April 2021. 

Pitcher Genesis Cabrera came in the sixth inning to face Phillies' Bryce Harper. He pitched the ball at 96.9 miles per hour, and this ball landed in Harper's face and brought his end to the game. 

After Harper's removal, Didi Gregorius came to face Genesis, and his second pitch struck Didi's back. With two bad throws continuously, the match turned into a scene with the umpires and managers.

The Phillies manager wanted Cabrera's ejection but only got himself ejected since the three-batters rule was still in effect. The Phillies had a distrust of Cabrera's pitching ability and feared he would injure another of their player too. However, the third time, he did not strike the body parts of Andrew McCutchen.

Effect Of Three-Batter Minimum On Game Length

The game length of MLB increased in the 2021 season despite the implementation of time-shortening rules like the 3-batter minimum. 

The new rule will ensure that hitters and pitchers will need to be more versatile.
Source : twitter

MLB 2021 season saw their average game length become three hours and 10 minutes, aka 3:10:7 and had seen an increment from the 2020s' three hours and seven minutes and three hours and five minutes of the 2019 season. 

Moreover, the 2001 season only had an average of two hours and 58 minutes of gameplay, so the MLB has not been successful with its time policies. 

The number of pitchers used was the same as of the 2020 season, aka 4.43 per game. More runs also did not contribute to the game length increment since it was 9.06 in 2021 and 9.66 in 2019. 

The 2023 MLB season is looking to implement more rules like the pitch timer and ghost runner to shorten the game's length in the major league. 

Does The 3 Batter Rule Apply In Playoffs

3 batter rule playoffs are applicable in the 2023 season. The pitchers must face at least three hitters in the postseason matches. 

The Playoffs will continue to see this new mandate.
Source : facebook

Some fans believe this rule should be removed in the playoffs because it would allow the MLB teams to utilize their relief pitchers more freely. This will offer more options for the clubs in the final innings of the match. 

However, reversing this rule in the playoffs can also harm the pitchers' form. Since they are now used to this batter regulation, not having this rule could backfire on the player's mentality. 

Furthermore, this rule is essential for getting more revenue and an enormous fanbase. People will see Playoff matches most on their television, unlike the 162-game regular season.

This rule will help decrease the match's time, which in turn, can create a shorter enjoyable match, get more people to watch it, and get more fans' awareness. 

Bullpen Specialists Are Not Needed Anymore

The establishment of the three-batters minimum rule has reduced the role of Bullpen Specialists. 

The bullpen specialists will be less used with the application of this regulation.
Source : facebook

These specialists are players who perform well against only a particular one or two players. These players are generally left-handed, play one batter, and then get removed entirely from the game. 

With these new regulations, the entire strategy has changed for the team managers. Now, they cannot seek to designate a specialist for one player but has to look for a pitcher who can stay and pitch effectively for three batters.

Moreover, the managers cannot bring pitchers specializing only in left- or right-handed batters. This MLB rule will assist in creating a diverse bullpen for every club, and relievers' competition will be stiff since they need to be more versatile than ever. 

Unlike this rule, the ghost runner rule designed to reduce the game after extra innings will not see its implementation in the postseason matches. 

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