The pitch clock and shift limitations are getting all the headlines when it comes to MLB’s rule changes, then you’ve got bigger bases and pick-offs receiving a cursory mention here and there. And while those things all have a greater impact on the game than position players pitching, I’m really glad to see the league will be addressing that scourge as well.
Once a fun little novelty that would see an outfielder or first baseman used to save the bullpen in a blowout, the increasing frequency of non-pitchers taking the mound has lost its luster. As their appearances became more common, position players also seemed to be taking their emergency roles far less seriously. Not that they were typically out there to win, mind you, but it got to the point where a forfeit would have been preferable.
Hits allowed by MLB position players:
1982: 0 hits
1992: 1 home run
2002: 1 single, 1 home run
2012: 9 singles, 6 doubles, 2 home runs
2022: 132 singles, 42 doubles, 2 triples, 48 home runs 😯 pic.twitter.com/f0GxvHmWa6
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) December 11, 2022
In order to combat a “strategy” that has overtaken the game like an invasive species, the league will introduce stricter limitations on position players pitching. Rather than being able to use them when the winning or losing by at least six runs, as had previously been the case, the winning team will need to be up by at least 10 or the losing team down by eight or more. Per Jesse Rogers, this tweak is expected to be finalized soon.
Average velo (MPH) when position players are pitching:
cc: @PitchingNinja @jaysonst pic.twitter.com/c9zOBZ2C6S
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) June 16, 2022
The primary impetus for the change is that things got so out of hand last season that players’ numbers were being impacted. Consider that 48 homers were hit against position players in 2022 as compared to just 40 total pitches thrown by non-pitchers in 2008. As you can see above, the average velocity of position players’ pitches has also dropped by more than 22 mph over the last 12 seasons.
MLB in 2008: 40 pitches thrown by position players
MLB in 2022: 46 homers hit vs. position players 😬 pic.twitter.com/qqBeTcIvCC
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) September 21, 2022
As much fun as it was to see Anthony Rizzo strike out Freddie Freeman, it was excruciating to witness Frank Schwindel serving up tanks with his eephus pitch. The shift from silly to tiresome didn’t take long and I’m really glad both the league and the union were proactive in putting a stop to it before the trend became even more of a farce.