Pickoff Rule Change
From pitch clocks to extra-inning automatic base runners, there have been a lot of experimental changes to minor league baseball. Now there will be one more change added into the mix–the pickoff rule change.
Per sources, a new pickoff rule change is set to be in effect for minor league baseball teams beginning in the 2020 season. The new rule will require pitchers to step off the rubber before attempting a pick-off attempt.
The origin of this particular pick-off rule came from the independent Atlantic League. In a guinea pig type situation, MLB requested the Atlantic League to implement the change for experimental sake. The rule change wasn’t implemented until the leagues all-star break last season. Interestingly enough, it was implemented right around the time ABS (Automated Ball-Strike) system was implemented.
The rule would effectively eliminate inside moves to second base but more importantly would have a significant effect on lefties. The move dubbed the “Andy Pettitte pick-off move which includes a lefty sits on his back leg before either throwing home or to first base. It’s a pick-off move that many left-handed pitchers have employed across various levels.
Not all levels will be affected and as of now, no decision has been made as to which levels would see the rule change. The closest thing to a sure thing is that implementation will take place within Class A and below.
The impact on a larger scale is exactly what you might think stemming from this change. The initial hope was that more base stealing would come about from the rule. The Atlantic League saw a significant increase in stolen base attempts. Stolen base attempts on average increased from 1.08 to 1.69 per game. The success rate also increased from 75 percent to 81 percent.
The impacts were also seen in the decrease of double plays league-wide. The league average dropped from .82 double plays per game to .63 per contest post rule implementation.
While neither MiLB nor MLB have made many comments on bringing in the pickoff rule change, there is a lot of buzz. According to multiple sources, there have been several farm system directors that have been told change is coming. Only time will tell just how far a sport hesitant on change will go. For right now, at least at the minor league level, players and coaches better be prepared.