The Atlantic League is an independent baseball organization that is an official partner of Major League Baseball. The partnership was formed in 2019, and it was extended in 2020.
The agreement was made in 2019, so MLB could test the use of an automated strike zone to assist umpires. The Atlantic League also tried other potential rules like the limit of defensive shifts, numbered mound visits, and larger bases.
MLB extended the partnership to grow their experimental ability. It’s challenging to test major rule changes in the Minor League because it can affect the development of the young stars. The Atlantic League is the perfect landscape to test changes to the game, and two significant procedure alterations are coming in 2021.
The Double Hook Designated Hitter
MLB does not seem to favor the universal designated hitter because they are looking for alterations to this rule in the Atlantic League. MLB used the universal DH in 2020, and it was a massive success.
Fans enjoyed seeing a hitter in the pitcher’s spot in the National League. MLB leaders want to know if they can improve the rule with the double hook DH.
The double hook DH is straightforward, and it will be interesting to see the ratings it receives in Atlantic League contests. A DH will start the game and remain in the contest until the starting pitcher is pulled.
Once the starting pitcher is substituted, the relief pitcher will move into the batting order. If Atlantic League managers do not want their relief pitcher to bat, they must use a pinch hitter.
This experiment attempts to combine the American League’s DH and the strategy of the National League into one rule.
Moving Back the Pitching Rubber
The universal DH is likely to be instituted in MLB unless the double hook rule is a noteworthy success. The second Atlantic League rule will be coming to the big leagues in time.
The pitching rubbers in the Atlantic League will be moved back from 60’6” to 61’6” in the second half of the season. MLB wants to test this rule because big league hitters are not putting the ball in play enough.
MLB thinks that fans are not watching because there is minimal offensive action. In 2005, the strikeout rate was 16.4%, and it has risen to 24.9% in 2021.
This growth is partly caused because pitchers’ fastball velocity has increased. In 2008, the average fastball came across the plate at 91.9 mph compared to 93.6 mph in 2021.
The MLB has displayed research showing that the extra distance will not affect pitchers’ arms. MLB determined that some catchers set up three feet behind the plate, so pitchers are throwing more than 60’6” every pitch.
The 60’6” standard has been utilized since 1893, but it’s expected to change in the coming seasons.
Why Does the MLB Want to Change?
MLB is afraid that baseball is dying. Less people are watching the game now than at any other time in recent history. Additionally, children no longer identify as baseball fans.
The viewership decline does not mean that baseball is dying, but it should be a slight concern for the league. However, the double hook DH and moving the rubber are not going to make a difference, in my opinion.
If a child cannot sit in front of the television and watch a baseball game, these two rules will not change that fact. If MLB thinks these two experiments will get children to watch baseball, they are wrong.
Baseball is not losing popularity, but people are consuming it through different means. Rule modifications will not make fair-weather fans care about the sport after Opening Day.
The MLB should reconsider what happens off the field, like upholding Nick Castellanos’ suspension, before they worry about instituting a double hook DH.
Tanner Kern is a writer for Knup Sports and the Sports 2.0 Network. He is the host of Between the Lines, the official show of Baseball Spotlight, and the main contributor for the website. Connect with Tanner on IG @tannerkern and Twitter @tannerkern_.