Atlantic League Agrees to Test Out Rules for MLB

Atlantic League Agrees to Test Out Rules for MLBIn American Association Daily, the Minor League Sports Report’s Robert Pannier discusses an agreement that the Atlantic League has made with Major League Baseball to test new rules and ideas over the next three seasons.

MLB, Atlantic League Make Pact

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball had reached a three year agreement to test new rules and ideas in the independent baseball league. The agreement will give Major League executives a chance to review how the rules effect play and to then determine if they could work at the Major League level.

The proposed rule changes are expected to be fairly significant. According to Baseball America, neither league has affirmed what exactly will be tested, but it is believed that two of the changes will be regarding moving the mound back and using the Trackman system to call balls and strikes.

The Trackman System

For at least three decades, there has been considerable complaining about the inconsistency of umpires regarding balls and strikes. The league has addressed these concerns with umpires on at least three occasions, but has not seen the kind of progress they were hoping for.

The Trackman system has been around since 2003, but was first used for golf. By 2008, it was expanded to baseball and has been widely used by ESPN, Fox, the MLB Network, among other networks, to demonstrate how accurate umpires are on their calls.

This technology has given commentators a lot to talk about as they critique umpires on every pitch. However, those concerns have led to a greater call to start using the technology to assist umpires in making accurate calls. With Major League Baseball already using video review for challenged calls related to homeruns and safe-out calls, it only seemed logical this innovation would start to be used as well.

In fact, many universities and organizations already use the technology to assist their pitchers and hitters, as well as scouts. According to the company’s website, teams in Japan, Korea, and both Major and Minor League teams in the United States as well as Division-I baseball programs already use the technology to help them evaluate players, helping to develop their skills.

Moving the Mound Back

In professional baseball, the mound currently is 60 feet-6 inches from home plate. This will be the first time in 125 years that the distance of the mound will change.

With more pitchers regularly hitting 100-plus on the radar gun, strikeouts are up and batting average is down. This has led baseball to look to even the odds by moving the mound back to give batters a split second longer to see the pitch. It is hoped that this will generate more offense.

The concern with implementing it in the Majors or even at the minor league level is that there is too much of a risk to “test” this out on million dollar players and prospects. The more sensible thing to do would be to try it in independent baseball with players who have been in the minors, some who have even reached the highest level of the game, to see how they react and how it impacts the game before moving it to the minor league level.

Within the next month it is expected that the Atlantic League will announce which rule changes will be implemented.

By Robert Pannier