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Upcoming Rule Changes Greatly Benefit Tyler Austin’s Future

There’s no place in today’s game for a weak-side platoon bat who offers little defensive value. It’s really difficult for me to see the value in the Twins keeping Tyler Austin on the active roster.

That all changes in 2020.

The MLB announced a series of rule changes that will dramatically change a player like Austin’s future outlook. He’s exactly the type of player who will benefit most from these updates.
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
One of the challenges the Twins face in retaining Austin will be trying to fit him on the roster, which will more than likely feature a three-man bench for the majority of the season. He’s out of options, and power is typically very expensive. If the Twins place him on waivers, I have little doubt the majority of rebuilding teams would be salivating over the thought of bringing him in.

We learned today that an extra roster spot will be added next season, making it much easier for a team to carry a bat-only type player. That’s huge for a guy like Austin. One of the other significant changes coming is the three-batter minimum for pitchers. But there’s a twist.

Starting in 2020, a pitcher must either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. So it’s not a strict three-batter minimum rule, but it will make it more difficult for teams to deploy specialist pitchers. Austin has been phenomenal against left-handed pitching over his young career (.937 OPS), but right-handers have mostly had their way with him (.664 OPS, 39.0 K%). As it stands right now, it’s not always easy to take advantage of that platoon split, but it will become much easier with these new restrictions.

A lot of the focus on this rule change has revolved around how it impacts bullpen usage. While that’s certainly the most obvious element to the rule and the thing it aims to adjust, I believe this change (in addition to the extra roster spot) means pinch hitters suddenly become a great deal more valuable than they’ve been in the era of the 13-man pitching staff.

These tweaks have the potential to change a slugging pinch hitter from a luxury most teams cannot afford to shoehorn onto their rosters to a potential integral part of the makeup of each team’s bench.

While Austin’s potential value is boosted by these changes, there were already some good reasons for the Twins to try to keep him in the org. Nelson Cruz has been arguably the best power hitter in baseball over the past few years, but nobody escapes Father Time. He does an incredible job at taking care of himself but you never know when a dropoff or significant injury may come. C.J. Cron had a breakout year last season and is a much more established player than Austin, but what if he can’t replicate that success? What if he's LoMo 2.0?

The Twins are only committed to Cruz and Cron for this upcoming season, though both can be brought back in 2020 if the team so chooses – Cruz has a $12 million option and Cron has one more year of arbitration eligibility. Austin, meanwhile, isn’t set to become a free agent until 2024. The Twins also have some nice bats down on the farm who figure to be factoring into the 1B/DH conversation before too long. Brent Rooker also seems to be a big beneficiary of these rule changes, but a bat in the hand is worth two in the rack.

I have not been a big supporter of Tyler Austin in the past because it’s difficult to see much value in a player of his profile the way the game is being played today. With a tweak in the rules must also come a reevaluations of how we value certain players. While these rule changes aren’t so dramatic to cause any kind of a seismic shift, I do believe they have a significant impact on players of Austin’s specific profile.

The only question is can they find room for Austin throughout the entire 2019 season?

Full Rule Changes
Here’s a link to the full press release.

For 2019:

-Inning breaks reduced to two minutes. They were previously 2:05 for local games and 2:25 for national broadcasts.

-There will be a single July 31 trade deadline. No more separate wavier trade deadline.

-Updates to All-Star Game voting and a $1 million bonus to the Home Run Derby winner.


For 2020:

-Active roster to expand one spot to 26.

-Rosters will only expand to 28 in September instead of 40.

-Undetermined cap on the number of pitchers on an active roster. This will be determined by a joint committee.

-Pitchers will need to either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning.

-Injured list goes back up to 15 days instead of 10.


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86 Comments

Well, they make a great deal of money and this is the business they are in.
That said, I have often wondered why more contracts don't include a payout in the event of a trade. You have to move to another city and that seems like it should entail some compensation.


Mike was answering a poster who questioned why the union would push for this. I don't think he's saying it's not fair or shouldn't be allowed.
    • Mike Sixel and Oldgoat_MN like this

Mike was answering a poster who questioned why the union would push for this. I don't think he's saying it's not fair or shouldn't be allowed.


Correct.
    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
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jorgenswest
Mar 16 2019 10:40 AM

The trend of pitcher games with 1 or 2 batters faced continues up since LaRussa's use of the bullpen in the late 80's. In 1988 there were 1006 games where pitchers faced 2 or fewer batters. His impact caused a large jump in the 1990s but the trend continues.

 

1998: 1876

2008: 2057

2018: 2307

 

2015: 2588 (most)

 

gallery_74_63_39409.jpg

 

Note: In 1988 there were fewer teams and thus fewer games. From 1988 to 1998 the number of gamesincreased by 15% but the number of short relief stints by 86%.

 

I appreciate that MLB and MLBPA are addressing the number of mid inning pitching changes. My preference would have been to address it by no mound visit/no warm up and no restriction on batters faced but this will help.

No Designated Hitter?

I'm surprised so many people -- heck nearly everybody -- like these rule changes. They all feel very "un-baseball" to me and minimize the ability for good managers to make smart decisions to give themselves an edge.

 

I also don't see how these changes help someone like Tyler Austin. I think they help the players at the other end of the spectrum-- it will give the old players another roster spot to stick around a little longer.

 

We hear complaints about how we have moved to a "participation medal" culture, and it feels like these rule changes make it easier for crappier teams to compete. Casual fans aren't going to understand what's going on with a lot of this rubbish.

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jorgenswest
Mar 16 2019 02:41 PM

LOOGY usage has been steadily deteriorating over the past few seasons anyway. Only 11% of LHP relief appearances lasted for only one batter last year, which is way down from the peak usage in the 1990s and 2000s when it was over 15%.

My guess is that a combination of overall better relievers, higher strikeout rates, and shifting is rendering that role obsolete.


This is a result of a steadily increasing number of pitchers used in each game. Since so many more pitchers were used in 2018 than 20 years ago that 11% is part of a much larger number. The number of 1 and 2 batter outing has increased significantly since the 90s but not quite as fast as the number of pitchers per game (partly due to shorter starts).

Last year a record number of pitchers were used in games making the fourth straight year that record was broken.

This is a result of a steadily increasing number of pitchers used in each game. Since so many more pitchers were used in 2018 than 20 years ago that 11% is part of a much larger number. The number of 1 and 2 batter outing has increased significantly since the 90s but not quite as fast as the number of pitchers per game (partly due to shorter starts).

Last year a record number of pitchers were used in games making the fourth straight year that record was broken.

Are there stats on the number of mid-inning pitching changes? Bringing in a new pitcher to start an inning seems more prevalent than in years past, but that move costs little to nothing in terms of play pace.

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jorgenswest
Mar 16 2019 03:31 PM

 

Are there stats on the number of mid-inning pitching changes? Bringing in a new pitcher to start an inning seems more prevalent than in years past, but that move costs little to nothing in terms of play pace.

 

I am not sure of a way to pull that from BR play index but since the number of pitchers per game has increased significantly the number of all types of appearances has likely increased including those that start an inning.

 

I did check for how many appearances were less than an inning. Virtually all of those would result in a mid-inning change with the exception of walk offs. In 2018 there were 4492 appearances of less than an inning and in 1998 there were 3479 for a little over 29% increase. Last year ranks second in those type of appearances behind 2015 (4613). 1998 fits in line with the trend with more than any year previous and fewer than any year since with the exception of 2000 (3474).

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108Stitches
Mar 16 2019 06:00 PM
I think we will no longer be able to compare players from here on out to players from 50 years ago. The game is going to be completely different.
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yarnivek1972
Mar 16 2019 08:11 PM

I think we will no longer be able to compare players from here on out to players from 50 years ago. The game is going to be completely different.


Bases are still going to be 90 feet apart. Pitching rubber still 60’6” from home plate. Still 9 vs 9.

I would rather see the Twins go full "lumber company" and keep Austin instead of Ehire. This guy has big time power. As a bench bat or sub, that appeals to me more than glove. With Marwin in the fold, and perhaps Tortuga, go all in on offense is a good play for this team.


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