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New MLB rules try to speed up game, entice stars, reframe rosters

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New MLB rules try to speed up game, entice stars, reframe rosters

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA reached an agreement on new rules for 2019 and 2020. The biggest news here may simply be that the squabbling sides could come to a consensus about anything. But first, the rules.

Here’s what is happening this season:

Inning breaks:

Subject to discussions with broadcast partners, inning breaks will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 in local games and from 2:25 to 2:00 in national games. The commissioner’s office retains the right to further reduce the breaks to 1:55 in local and national games for the 2020 season. Remember when your Little League coach yelled at you to hustle on and off the field? This is that for grown-ups.

Trade Deadline:

The August waiver trade period will be eliminated. The July 31 trade deadline will be the only deadline. Players may still be placed and claimed on outright waivers after July 31, but trades will no longer be permitted after that date. The idea here is to make the offseason more active, as well as create more weight on the July 31 deadline. Think about the Nationals of last year had this rule been in place. Would they have held onto everyone into August, including Bryce Harper?

All-Star Game:

Fan voting will be conducted in two rounds. The “primary round” which replicates the All-Star voting of old, followed in late June or early July by an “Election Day”. The top three vote-getters at each position in each league during the primaries will be voted on by fans in a prescribed time period to determine the All-Star starters.

And, a wrinkle in the game to help end it: All-Star games that go to extra innings will begin with a runner on second base in each inning (managers can send players previously removed from the game back onto the field for this duty).

Mound visits:

The maximum number of mound visits per team will be reduced from six to five per game. This change was touted as a time-saver before its implementation last season. It had little to no effect on the game beyond gobbling up scoreboard space which could be used for something more informative.

Home Run Derby:

Total player prize money for the Derby will be boosted to $2.5 million. The winner will receive $1 million. MLB’s hope is the increased payout will attract bigger stars to the competition. But why would it? Bryce Harper makes $26 million this year. Mike Trout, who has never participated, makes $33 million. Hard to see this moving the needle.

Not happening after experimentation in spring training: The 20-second pitch clock. That’s out for a minimum of the next three years. Max Scherzer rejoices.

Coming in 2020 are more significant changes which will greatly influence managerial strategy and roster building:

Three-batter minimum for pitchers:

Rule 5.10(g) will be amended to require that starting pitchers and relief pitchers must pitch to either a minimum of three batters or to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for incapacitating injury or illness. The intent is to speed up the game via fewer pitching changes. A likely result is more action because pitchers are not in situations leveraged as much in their favor. That’s good. The rub is more action also takes more time, and most current action includes only the three true outcomes -- walk, strikeout or home run. That’s not great. And, this also raises the possibility of a fake injury to produce a more beneficial pitching matchup. Like certain trips to the injured list, it’s impossible to police. The players’ association did not actually straight agree to this rule, according to ESPN. It instead said it would not challenge it.

Roster numbers game:

Active rosters expand to 26 for the regular season and postseason. They are also capped at 28 -- all teams must carry 28 -- after Sept. 1. The number of pitchers a club can carry on the active roster will be determined by further discussions by a joint committee. Teams must also designate each player as a pitcher, position player or two-way player. A two-way player must pitch at least 20 Major League innings and play at least 20 Major League games within the past two seasons in order to qualify as a two-way player. Players designated as two-players can pitch any time. Position players can only pitch in extra innings or in a game which the team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters.

Injured list adjustments:

The minimum placement period for pitchers on the injured list is expected to increase from 10 to 15 days. The minimum minor-league assignment time will also rise from 10 to 15 days. Both sides need to discuss this further before it is officially entered into the agreement. Teams were circumventing the recently created 10-day period by essentially cycling pitchers between the major and minor leagues to have fresh arms on the roster as often as possible.

In the big picture is interesting language: “As part of the agreement, the parties will meet and discuss a renegotiation and extension of the Basic Agreement.” The league and its players spent much of the winter grousing about each other three years ahead of the current CBA’s expiration following the 2021 season. That activity did not bode well. Commissioner Rob Manfred panned MLBPA executive director Tony Clark at a mid-February press conference in West Palm Beach. Players repeatedly expressed their concerns about another dragging offseason period. An agreement here is a sign the two sides can at least talk. But much harder topics are coming up, most notably revenue split and team control over young players.

 

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What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

This is the Nationals’ first time in Miami this season, and the team finished with a 3-2 loss against the Marlins on Friday night. Here are a few things to look for as they enter the second game of the three-game series against the Floridians: 

  1. Friday night’s situational hitting was poor, NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas reported. The Nats left 10 runners on base in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.However, the Nationals’ offense has changed this season. This was exemplified in Friday’s series opener against the Marlins, in which both Adam Eaton and Victor Robles bunted to get hits.
  2. Eaton singled on a bunt in the first inning, eventually scoring on a Juan Soto RBI single, while Robles also reached base safely in the third following Eaton’s strategy and then stole a base. These creative plays helped get men on base, but again, more often than not they stayed there. Brian Dozier hit his second home run of the season in the seventh inning, a solo shot which gave the Nats their second and final run of the night. Dozier had a rough start to the season, and after Friday’s game, he has just two RBIs – both via solo homers. He has a batting average of .182, and he’s lost playing time to Howie Kendrick as the season has moved forward. Kendrick has a batting average of .477, the highest on the roster.
  3. Anthony Rendon continued his hit streak, extending it to 17 games with a double Friday. This is the longest hitting streak in the MLB this season, as well as the third baseman’s personal record. Within the organization, Rendon is chasing Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush’s record, which stretched to 33 consecutive hits in 1933. Can he get another on Saturday?

 

Download the MyTeams app for coverage from NBC Sports Washington of the Nationals/Marlins game on Saturday. The game broadcast will be at 6:10 PM ET on 106.7 the Fan and MASN2. 

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

The Washington Nationals lost to the Miami Marlins, 3-2, Friday night to drop back to 9-9. Here are five observations from the game...

1. For all the offseason efforts at improvement, winning the National League East could come down to its one member which is trying to lose.

The four spenders each play Miami 19 times. By the end, going 11-8 against the in-the-tank Marlins may become a lamentable part of some team’s 2019 legacy. They either brought in a marquee pitcher, a generational outfielder or a former MVP third baseman. But they didn’t do enough against the Marlins, costing themselves the single, taut playoff spot that emerges from the division. It’s a viable storyline to project.

The Nationals took their first negative step toward that fate Friday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins.

The situational hitting was poor -- Washington left 10 runners on base. The starting pitching was so-so -- Anibal Sanchez took the loss. The bullpen made one dire mistake -- Matt Grace’s first pitch hit left-hander Curtis Granderson with the bases loaded, forcing in the decisive run. The luck wasn’t great -- Caleb Smith, a quality left-hander marooned in Miami as the staff’s best pitcher, was on turn. Anticipate him representing Miami at the All-Star Game this season.

Brian Dozier homered. Mark that in the positive column. Joe Ross pitched two innings of quality relief. Put him next to Dozier.

Otherwise, the loss was sigh-worthy for a team trying to lurch forward, ending its up-and-down run of the first three weeks.

2. Another day, another hit for Anthony Rendon.

His sixth-inning double extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in Major League Baseball this season. It’s also an extension of a personal best for Rendon.

Rendon’s 15 extra-base hits in 17 games is a Nationals/Expos record.

Who is he chasing for the organization’s hit streak record? Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush, who hit safely in 33 consecutive games back in 1933.

Manush played for the Senators from 1930-1935. He hit .336 when he set the Washington record for consecutive game with a hit. He led the league in triples (17) and hits (221) that season.

Manush won a batting title in 1925 when he hit .378 for Detroit. Rendon is currently hitting .377 in the opening weeks of the season.

3. Sanchez was ok. Not great, not terrible. Just ok.

He lasted 5 ⅓ innings, allowed five hits, three earned runs, walked four and struck out six. His ERA is 4.91.

Regression for Sanchez this season was expected. His 2.83 ERA in Atlanta last season came strongly against the current of his previous pitching. Sanchez had a 5.67 ERA over the three prior seasons.

However, this has been a leap back, a full two runs in arrears of last season’s ERA. More troubling than the ERA is Sanchez’s path through lineups. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate down.

As the season moves along, a comparison point for Sanchez will be the results of left-hander Wade Miley in Houston. The Nationals made a multi-year offer to Miley which was better than the offer he eventually settled on with the Astros, according to a source. Miley ended up signing for just one year in Houston because the free agent market went south, and Washington quickly pivoted to Sanchez. Keeping track of the two via ERA-plus (which accounts for park factors) during the season will be a fun exercise. Coming into Friday, Miley was by far the better pitcher in that department, 129 to 95. Another bloated outing from Sanchez only increased that gap.

4. The Nationals hoped to play a different brand of offense this season. They wanted to deploy more athleticism, using speed and contact to produce runs.

They took the idea to the extreme Friday. Adam Eaton and Victor Robles both bunted for hits. Eaton scored Washington’s first run after reaching base via his drag bunt up the first base line.

Robles stole second and ended up on third following his bunt in the same direction in the third inning.

Creative work at the plate for both.

5. Another bullpen twist hit Friday. Austen Williams was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained right AC joint. Austin Adams was called up to replace him.

Williams had a disastrous outing Wednesday in the Nationals’ 9-6 win over the Giants. He allowed four earned runs -- on two home runs -- after the Nationals entered the ninth inning with a 9-2 lead. Williams’ inability to get an out in the ninth eventually forced closer Sean Doolittle into a game he never should have entered.

Doolittle’s entrance also complicated the current series in Miami. He pitched back-to-back games to close the series against San Francisco. His Friday availability was in question because of that, though the Nationals didn’t end up needing him.

The right-handed Adams, 27, joins the team from Triple-A Fresno. He struck out 12, allowed a hit and didn’t give up an earned run in his six innings with the Grizzlies.

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