Switching pitchers mid-at-bat could become the norm in MLB

BleedGopher

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per Axios Sports:

As MLB teams lean further into analytics, they become less bound by precedent and more willing to experiment with new strategies.

First, it was the defensive shift, which has fundamentally changed hitting. Then, it was "The Opener," which has fundamentally changed pitching.
Just last week, the Tampa Bay Rays really stuck it to traditionalists when they pulled their pitcher … moved him to first base for one at-bat … then put him back on the mound after the guy who replaced him got an out.
What's new: With conventional wisdom thrown out the window, there's no telling where teams go from here. One tactic that could see widespread adoption? The totally legal, yet rarely used, mid-at-bat pitching change.

The backdrop: Former Kentucky baseball coach John Cohen began using mid-at-bat pitching changes in the early 2000s. The strategy has since spread across D-I and is used roughly once every five games, per The Ringer.

"There was always criticism of doing it. The funny thing is, the criticism never had any form of logic behind it. It was always, 'That's not baseball.' Well, what the hell does that mean?"
— John Cohen tells The Ringer
How it works: Mid-at-bat pitching changes put the hitter at such a serious disadvantage that it's honestly a bit surprising that we don't see more of them.

Icing effect: Imagine being in the middle of an at-bat and then having to wait as the opposing team calls time, brings a new pitcher in, and has him throw like eight warm-up pitches. How do you stay focused?

Can't take first pitch: If a hitter is behind in the count when the change is made, he can't take comfort in knowing that he can watch the new guy's first pitch (to get a sense of speed/release).

Think about it ... It's the seventh inning, your pitcher is up 0-2 on the hitter but he's tiring and the game is in the balance. Why not pause that at-bat, bring your best reliever out of the bullpen, and instruct him to throw his best breaking ball three straight times?

Go Gophers!!
 

GophersInIowa

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It would be interesting to see if the numbers back up the theory.
 

stocker08

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I always thought that you couldn't change pitchers in the middle of an at-bat.
 

stocker08

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I’m just saying maybe a modification of the rule is in order.
I don't know....I think it would be kind of bulls*** to freeze a batter in the middle of an at bat like that to bring in a new pitcher. I get that for injuries and unforeseen circumstances....it happens. But wouldn't that almost be like letting a team bring in a pinch hitter to take over an at bat?

But then again....this article makes it sound like a mid at bat pitching change is already legal....but just doesn't happen. :confused:

I could have sworn that it was against the rules.
 

GophersInIowa

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It's happened before:

Justin Wilson replaced Masahiro Tanaka in the seventh inning after Tanaka allowed a leadoff home run. Wilson gave up a single and a stolen base, but had forced two outs and was well on his way to a third, with Jackie Bradley Jr. in a 1-2 count.

As Wilson prepared his next pitch, Girardi jogged out of the dugout, motioning to the bullpen as he approached the mound. Just one strike away from ending the inning, Wilson was pulled and replaced with Dellin Betances.
https://www.mlb.com/news/joe-girardi-makes-pitching-change-mid-at-bat/c-141252666

But there are restrictions.

If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.
https://deadspin.com/umps-dont-give-a-****-as-astros-make-illegal-pitching-499932607
 

stocker08

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That doesn't sound like much of a restriction. Simply sounds like once they switch pitchers during an at bat.....they cannot do it again during that at bat.

Interesting. Yeah....I guess I'm surprised that I've never actually seen it happen in that case.
 

howeda7

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If this really becomes a thing, MLB will need to change the rule. The last thing they need is something else making the game drag on longer.
 

stocker08

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If this really becomes a thing, MLB will need to change the rule. The last thing they need is something else making the game drag on longer.
That shouldn't be a concern. Whether a team switches pitchers mid-batter or between batters.....time difference would stay the same. And this wouldn't necessarily mean that teams would switch pitchers more often because they could. With a limited number of relievers in the bullpen, managers have to be careful about bringing in a guy to face one batter.
 
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