HumorApril 1, 2003

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This Year’s Rules Changes

By Ned R. Valora

Once again, Major League Baseball’s rules committee has tweaked the official rule book slightly in an attempt to improve the game. Regardless of whether you approve of these rules or feel that any such break with the tradition of the game is a bad thing, it’s important to examine these changes in terms of their effect on fantasy strategies. Let’s take a look.

Rule 1.13 – The first baseman may wear a leather glove or mitt not more than eleven inches long from top to bottom and not more than eight inches wide across the palm, measured from the base of the thumb crotch to the outer edge of the mitt.
Formerly: twelve inches

Fantasy impact: Close to zero. There’ll be a few more errors, and maybe a first baseman or two ejected for wearing an oversized glove, but fantasy owners can ignore this.

Rule 6.09(e) – A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance three bases.
Formerly: two bases

Fantasy impact: Again, not much. Ground-rule triples will be rare and won’t influence statistics very much. If you’re in a roto league that uses triples as a category, however, you might want to draft hitters like Jay Gibbons or Paul Konerko who might pick up a few triples this way. (Also keep in mind that this two-year experiment will only be used in the AL.)

Rule 8.04 – When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 15 seconds after he receives the ball.
Formerly: 20 seconds.

Fantasy impact: Five seconds might not seem like much, but to pitchers who rely on controlling the timing and flow of an at bat, it might be critical. Pitchers such as Tom Glavine, Kirk Rueter, Andy Pettitte, Bill Lee or Mark Mulder could have serious trouble adjusting, especially early in the season. At least Bud Selig’s proposal to speed games up even more by reducing this interval to ten seconds didn’t go through.

Rule 10.03(a) – When a player does not exchange positions with another fielder but is merely placed in a different spot for a particular batter, do list this as a new position.
Formerly: do not list this new position

Fantasy impact: This is big. In effect, what this means is that an infielder who becomes a fourth outfielder or a third baseman who plays behind second for a single at bat will be credited as having played another position. Obviously, this significantly raises the value of players whose managers are fond of making such shifts, such as Tampa Bay’s Lou Piniella or the Cubs’ Dusty Baker. And if Eric Wedge keeps his promise to bring back the ‘Williams Shift,’ All of Cleveland’s infielders will qualify at both 2b and ss…

Rule 10.20 – Abolished
Formerly: Saves for relief pitchers

Fantasy impact: Staggering. Now that saves are no longer an official statistic, the value of closers is in complete limbo. The league made this decision since it was felt that the save statistic was influencing playing styles, saying, “Strategies should be designed to win ball games, not to earn statistics,” and it certainly doesn’t look as if saves will be back anytime soon, even though thousands of fantasy players have already emailed the commissioner’s office to protest. Will teams now use a committee approach more often? Very likely, although it might take several years before we see this happen. The main question is: will fantasy players continue to use saves, even though the league doesn’t? What would we replace saves with, particularly in roto scoring? Stay tuned…

Ned R. Valora has been following baseball since 1979, when he shared both an apartment and a moustache style with Rollie Fingers. His interests include baseball history, Oriental cooking, perpetrating April Fool’s jokes and sky-diving.

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