MLB

What is the three-batter minimum in the MLB?

Amongst several rule changes announced in 2020, we take a look at an interesting pitching related rule and it's effect.

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What is the three-batter minimum in the MLB?
RONALD MARTINEZ AFP

Coming into the 2021 MLB season there were a few rule changes that may have gone unnoticed. That is not to say, however, that they weren't significant.

The MLB's Three-batter minimum

In light of a shortened season due to the pandemic in 2020, MLB was forced to address different questions and subsequently rules to answer them. Amongst those rule changes -announced in February 2020 - aimed at correcting the much maligned pace of place issues i.e. the time taken between changes -  of the MLB, one specific rule was announced and that was the 'three-batter minimum.'

According to MLB the rule states that "pitchers must face a minimum of three batters in an appearance or pitch to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for injuries and illnesses. If a pitcher faces one batter to end an inning, he may be removed, but if he is brought back for a second inning, he must still face two more batters for a total of three."

What does the Three-batter minimum mean for the game?

In practice there are two positions one can take on the rule. The first is that it removes the manager's ability to go to the bullpen at any point to select the matchup that he wants. The second is that it forces managers to be more selective of what relief pitcher to use and more importantly when. Interestingly this actually allows the possibility for advanced strategy regarding matchups as now the opposing manager has the opportunity to see what and who are going to be facing them from the mound.

In general the majority of pitching changes come with one or more outs in an inning. In light of this it is unlikely that game play will be significantly altered. Additionally pitching changes aren't normally a cause for long delays during the regular season.