Over the years, we have seen Minor League Baseball act as a testing ground for various rules changes. 2021 will be no different, and MLB announced a variety of rules experiments that they will be conducting in each Minor League this season. Here is the official statement from the press release by the league yesterday.

These experimental playing rules have been approved by the Competition Committee and the Playing Rules Committee. MLB will closely monitor and analyze the impact of each rule change throughout the 2021 season and report to Clubs on their effects for further analysis. Consistent with the preferences of our fans, the rule changes being tested are designed to increase action on the basepaths, create more balls in play, improve the pace and length of games, and reduce player injuries.

El Paso Chihuahuas fans might notice that first, second, and third base will look larger than they have in years past. That is because MLB will be expanding the size of the bases in Triple A from 15 inch squares to 18 inch squares. The reason for the change will be to prevent injuries and collisions. They also believe that it could have a modest impact on more successful stolen base attempts.

Steve Kaplowitz
Steve Kaplowitz

In 2019, the Chihuahuas stole 62 bases and were caught 25 times. That is a 71.3% success rate. The team ranked fifth from the bottom in stolen bases, however, their success rate was higher than the league average of 69.6%. Omaha led the old Pacific Coast League in 2019 with 150 stolen bases and San Antonio was tops with an 80% success rate.

MLB is also implementing the following experimental rules changes in other levels of Minor League Baseball. Double A will see defensive positioning require four infielders on the dirt in order to eliminate shifts that often take away base hits. High A will require pitchers to step off the rubber before a pick off attempt, hoping to increase the frequency of stolen base attempts. All low A pitchers will only have a maximum of two pickoff attempts per batter. If a pitcher tries a third pickoff and the runner safely returns to the base, it would be considered a balk.

It is always interesting to see how these experimental rules changes affect the game. When Triple A instituted a clock between innings and pitches, it sped up the game. If the new wider bases lead to an increase in stolen base attempts, it will make the game more exciting for fans.

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