Make baseball great again

tags: baseball 

Major League Baseball is trying to make baseball less boring and I have some ideas of my own.

At the moment there is a league-imposed lockout because MLB and the Players Association disagree on four points, among others:

  • Notice period for league-imposed new features, such as larger bases and anti-shift rules
  • Salary pool caps and the luxury tax
  • Player salary minimums
  • Instituting an international draft

This disagreement has been going on for three months now. MLB cancelled the first two series of the year, and now my tickets to a Cincinatti Reds home game are at stake.

But, I think they are missing some really good ideas, even apart from the ones in Blernsball.

The trick is to make the game shorter, less predictable, and more action packed. You do that with arcane and overlapping rules. By varying the constraints, teams have to adjust how they play to figure out what works. And, when they get to some steady state, the rules will change again so the teams have to adjust to new constraints.

Many of my ideas reduce the effectiveness of the pitcher to make play unpredictable or to make it more likely a ball will be put into play.

  1. Maximum pitch count - each team is allotted 110 pitches. If you run out first, you lose. You can declare an intentional walk without it counting against your pitch count. Every mound visit counts as one pitch, but you can have as many mound visits as you like. Pitches below 75 mph do not count. At the end of the game, every complete set of 10 unused pitches counts as one run.

  2. Per-batter pitch count - if the batter does not put the ball into play by seven pitches, he is out. Additionally, if the batter does not swing at any of four consecutive pitches, he is out. The batting team can propose an intentional walk, in which case the defensive team’s pitch count will be reset to the number of pitches at the start of that at-bat, the batter will advance to first, but his run, should he score, will be counted only as half a run. A wild pitch hitting the mascot advances the runner to first, but also resets the pitch count to the count at the start of the at-bat.

  3. Maximum defensive time - each team’s time on the field is measured. You have 90 minutes. If you run out first, you lose. But, at any time you can end the inning but accepting all current base-runners as runs, and if there are no baserunners, giving up one run. These don’t count against that pitcher as earned runs however and creates completely new stats for the nerds. The timing starts immediately upon the third out of the half inning. If the previous defensive team is not off the field by the time the current defensive team is ready to play, the next batter is automatically out.

  4. Declared fights - forget these long running feuds about beaned batters and long-term revenge. Before each game, managers will declare if their team will fight. If neither team declares a fight, there is no fight. If one team declares a fight while the other doesn’t, the declaring team starts with one run. If both teams declare that a fight, the umpire will select a particularly boring stretch of the game to give a signal to the scorekeeper to light the “Fight Light”. After that, both teams can fight, and a run will be awarded to the team with a player left standing on the pitcher’s mound. Players are removed from the fight when they exit or are forced off the field into foul territory. If an exited player re-enters the field, that team automatically loses the game.

  5. Wildcard base - add a new base behind the pitchers mound, but offset toward first. Any baserunner can go to that base from any other base other than home base without using the baselines, but only if there is a baserunner on the next base. For example, with runners on first and second and a ground ball to third, the runner on first can go to the wildcard base so the runner on second does not have to advance. This would force more action as the wildcard base runner can see the catcher’s signs. This also means that infield tactics have to change to keep the wildcard runner from running to home plate, especially on a wild pitch.

  6. Skee-Ball style home runs - each part of the outfield is given a different home run score that applies to the batter but not any runners. For example, a home run over a long right field fence might count for two runs for the batter. These scores are decided before each game based on frequency of balls hit into that area. The rarer the home run, the higher the score, to a maximum of 10 points. In-field home runs count for three runs. All runs have a 2 multiplier if the batter calls the shot, Babe Ruth style.

  7. Off-center weighted baseballs - make ball travel unpredictable with a small, off-center weight inside the ball. This weight is not uniform in mass or placement, so there isn’t a good way for a pitcher or batter to know what the ball will do. This should reduce fastball speed and increase junk ball hits.

  8. Allowed cheating - each team gets cheat cards to use in any way they decide to break the rules, but they can only be used used when the opposing team asks for a video replay. They have to declare their use of the cheat card before the replay ruling. However, each team’s cheat card count is adjusted before each series based on their use so far that season. Teams can exchange their cheat cards to the opposing team for a number of allowed pitches, which reduces their maximum pitch count. They can also exchange a cheat card to advance a runner one base other than to home plate or the wildcard base. For example, to avoid a double play, the team can use a cheat card to advance a runner from first to second. However, the defensive team could play a cheat card at the same time to make that an out. Every cheat card left at the end of game deducts one run from your total.

  9. MLB Power Plays - if a player cheats and the opposing team prevails in the video replay, that player is excused for the rest of the inning and the defensive team is short another player on the field. If it’s an offensive player, it’s also an automatic out. If the defensive team already has two excused players, the inning ends with all baserunners counted as runs, or in the case of no baserunners, at least one run. The next defensive inning will start with the one player excused.

  10. Every player on the roster must play for three outs, including the pitchers. It does not matter what position they play. This forces the defensive team to balance strength on the field each inning. For some innings, they can field a stronger roster, and a weaker roster in other innings. Additionally, no player can play the same position for the last out of the previous inning and the first out of the current inning.

  11. Ties are decided by the least number of runners left on base. When no runners have been left on base, both teams must fight. The winner is decided in the same manner as described earlier.

  12. Any player taken into police custody that week reduces the defensive players on the field by one for the entire game immediately after his arrest. This provides some interesting swatting opportunities. However, if the opposing team is caught swatting, they lose the rest of the games in their series.

BONUS: The Yankees have to beat the spread to win, not just score more points.