Atlantic League will test potential implementations to Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball has seen attendance drop and length of games increase. They believe a increased pace to the game could draw more interest and ultimately increase attendance. However, these changes cannot be thrown into action in the major leagues without some testing ground.
That's where the independent Atlantic League comes into play. The potential future of the came will be put on display, which includes moving the pitching mound back two feet, robot umpires and the elimination of the infield shift.
Major League Baseball is able to test these rule changes in the Atlantic League due to their three-year partnership with the league. In the past rule changes were tested in the minor leagues, but nothing as drastic as some of the current proposed changes.
The most noteworthy changes are the following:
Moving the pitching mound back two feet during the second half of the season
Using a radar system to assist umpires in calling balls and strikes
Imposing a three-batter minimum for pitchers, which MLB may want to use beginning the 2020 season
Eliminating the shift and those that fail to have two infielders on each side of season base when the ball is pitched will be penalized a ball to the batter
Increasing the size of the bases, with the exception of home plate
Mound visits are only allowed for an injury or a pitching change
Decreasing the time between innings and pitching changes by 20 seconds
The idea behind many of the changes, according to MLB senior vice president Morgan Sword, is to reduce strikeouts, therefore putting more balls into play. In essence this will create more base running, higher pace of play and more action overall that today's fans gravitate towards.
It will be interesting to see how many of the proposed changes actually make it to the Major League level. After all, the mound distance has been set since 1893. But the worry about increased velocity of pitches is creating a huge increase in strikeouts. One may argue that it's more of the "home run or bust" mentality among hitters in the current game that is generating the strikeout totals.
Whatever the case may be, the league will have a significant amount of information at its disposal from the Atlantic League games to determine if the changes could be effective at the Major League level.