The Atlantic League plans to move the pitching rubber back one foot during the second half of the 2021 season, the league and Major League baseball announced Wednesday.
The change, along with a “double-hook,’’ designated hitter rule, are part of the AL’s ongoing experiments with baseball’s rules in partnership with MLB.
The AL, including the Lancaster Barnstormers, began that partnership in 2019, with rules changes including automated calling of ball and strikes, a requirement that pitchers face a minimum of three batters or complete an inning before being removed, restricting defensive shifts and enlarging the bases to 18 inches.
The three-batter minimum rule is being used in the major leagues this season, and the other changes are being tried in the minor leagues.
This year’s experiments:
*The rubber will be moved from the traditional 60 feet, six inches from home plate to 61-6. The hope is that increased reaction time for hitters will lead to more balls in play and fewer strikeouts. The strikeout rate in MLB has increased 15 straight seasons.
*Under the Double Hook rule, once a team’s starting pitcher is replaced, it will lose its designated hitter for the remainder of the game. Instead of the DH, a pinch hitter, or the relief pitcher in the game at the time, will have to bat.
The purpose, according to an AL/MLB press release, is to, “incentivize teams to leave their starting pitchers in longer, increase the value of starters who can work deeper into games and increase the strategic element in the late innings of a game.’’
The AL season begins May 27. The Barnstormers’ home opener, vs. York, is at 6:30 p.m. June 4 at Clipper Magazine Stadium.