blue jays mlb minute

MLB Minute: Blue Jays, Contenders, Rules Changes Showcased

Each week Jays From the Couch takes in the beauty of the MLB landscape and tries to imagine how Blue Jays Fans might see things. This week: the significant rules changes being put into effect at the AAA level and the never-ending attempts by some contenders to shop the clearance racks for roster help. We also remember the day David Cone came to Toronto.


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* In theory, all major transactions were finalized at 6 p.m. ET August 2nd. In reality, a significant number of MLB teams have been playing games of musical roster chairs since the Trade Deadline. In some cases it is a matter a simple housecleaning, releasing underperforming veteran players in order to give younger prospects a chance to show what they can do at the big league level. Many times players who sustained serious injuries, were placed on the 60-day extended IL, and now needed to be added to the 40-man roster. When it comes to contenders, scanning the waiver wire for upgrades- minor or major – that could make a difference in a pennant race and the playoffs.

For many years, players could be traded after the deadline as long as they cleared the waiver process. The majority of those players carried hefty price tags for teams considering placing claims, which allowed contenders to manipulate the system to add the players they needed. With a collectively bargained change to the process, fewer high profile claims and trades have occurred. In 2022, Dinelson Lamet (Rockies, claimed from Brewers) and Franmil Reyes (Cubs, claimed from Guardians) are the two highest profile players to be acquired after the deadline. It should be noted that both players were claimed by non-contenders and awarded based on their lower place in the standings.

Amongst the current contenders, the White Sox (Elvis Andrus), Padres (Brandon Kintzler) and Blue Jays (Jackie Bradley, Jr. Matt Peacock Yoshi Tsutsugo) have acquired the most notable additions of players designated for assignment since August 2nd. The Blue Jays and White Sox are interesting case studies. Neither team executed high impact trades at the deadline and were criticized for not addressing their primary needs. Both teams have also been considered underachievers this season. The Andrus and JBJ moves can be directly attributed to injuries suffered by Tim Anderson and George Springer.

Andrelton Simmons, Didi Gregorious, Jed Lowrie, Nomar Mazara, Stephen Piscotty, Tony Wolter and Garrett Richards are the most recognizable names DFAd and released during the month of August. While none of these veterans contributed much during the 2022 campaign, it is not beyond possibility to see them added by August 31st deadline for playoff eligibility. The Rays and Dodgers have numerous players currently on the 60-day IL who are scheduled to return before the end of the month, which could facilitate further waiver maneuvering. Blue Jays fans should keep a keen eye on the transaction tickers over the next 10 days to see if future playoff roster additions may become available.

 

* Along this line of analysis, let Blue Jays fans celebrate again the post-deadline trade of Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson to the Mets for David Cone 31 years ago this week. Cone brought stability and toughness to a starting rotation that had lost franchise icon Dave Stieb to a shoulder injury. Cone went 4-3 across 7 starts and 53.0 innings, striking out 47 and helping Toronto to its first World Series championship

 

* Major League Baseball gave fans a glimpse at probable rules changes this past Saturday during a MiLB telecast on MLB Network. Former MLB players and current league consultants Raul Ibanez and Joe Martinez provided pre-game explanations of the rules changes being experimented with across the AAA levels as well as highlighting in-game outcomes of the rule change implementations. MLB rules guru Theo Epstein joined the broadcast during the second inning to further explain rationale for the rules experimentation, emphasizing the need to do so at the minor league level to expose any potential secondary impacts not addressed in the rules themselves.

The telecast offered fascinating looks at these rule changes:

Pitch Clock– There is a maximum of 30 seconds between batters. Pitchers are required to deliver the next pitch within 14 seconds if there are no runners on base, 19 seconds with baserunners aboard. If a pitcher does not deliver his pitch before the timer expires, a ball is called. While the number of violations per game has dropped to .54 per game by Week 18, three pitch clock violations were called on Syracuse Mets pitcher Jose Rodriguez over the first 5 innings.

Pitcher Engagement– A pitcher is only permitted to throw to a base or step off the rubber twice per at-bat. If the pitcher makes further attempts, a balk is called and the baserunner(s) are advanced 1 base.

Larger Bases– All infield bases are now 18 inches wide, an increase over the MLB field dimensions of 15 inches. The primary reason for the experiment is to reduce the injury risk for fielders and baserunners by reducing the chances for collisions. Over the past 12 months, Max Muncy, Ty France and Ji-man Choi have been seriously injured trying to make catches at first base. In addition, countless severe leg injuries have been suffered by runners seeking to stretch to beat throws. An indirect effect may also impact stolen base attempts and advancing extra bases on balls in play. The 3″ increase in base size moves bases that much closer to each other. In the case of stolen bases, successful steal attempts have increased from 68% in 2019 to 77% in 2022.

ABS System Challenges– A very intriguing rule change is the ability of a pitcher, catcher or batter to challenge the ball and strike calls made within the automated strike zone. Each team has 3 challenges and retains its challenge should the call be overturned. Managers and coaches cannot directly call or ask for a challenge. Charlotte minor league veteran Mark Payton praised the challenge system during an in-game interview, saying once hitters got used to the nuances of the ABS system, strategic challenges early in counts (1-0, 1-1, 2-0) were specifically helpful if it gave a batter an advantage by keeping pitchers from getting ahead in count. Analysts Ibanez and Martinez paid precise attention to the positives and negatives of each ABS challenge from both a pitcher and hitter perspective.

While no official decision on the implementation of any new rules changes has been made, the Commissioner’s Office achieved a public relations victory by exposing fans to the positive aspects of each rule. The automated strike zone has been vigorously opposed by the MLBPA. But from a player development perspective, the exposure prospects are receiving to these and other rule changes will allow for a smoother transition sooner rather than later.

 

 


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