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.
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.
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.
Génesis Cabrera hits Bryce Harper in the face and Didi Gregorius in the ribs with his first two pitches— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 29, 2021
Benches get warned and Joe Girardi gets ejected, yelling "throw the ball over the fucking plate!" on his way out. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt yelled back pic.twitter.com/PLMmBQhvCt
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.
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.