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Minor League Baseball notebook: Experimental pickoff rule removed
Pitchers rejoice, especially lefties
CEDAR RAPIDS — Chalk one up for the purists.
The High-A Central League has stopped employing its experimental rule in which all pitchers must step off the pitching rubber before attempting any pickoff move.
That rule was one of several Major League Baseball, which now is running the minors, has tried out this season. Others included employing larger bases at the Triple-A level, forcing there to be at least four defensive players positioned on the infield dirt on every pitch in Double-A and limiting pickoff attempts to two per plate appearance in Low-A.
The Low-A Southeast League used an automated ball-strike system. There was a 15-second pitch clock in the Low-A West League.
The experiment were designed, as MLB said in a preseason press release, to “increase action on the basepaths, create more balls in play, improve the pace and length of games, and reduce player injuries.”
“I was just like ‘Here we go again with the rule changes,’” said Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher Tyler Watson. “You just kind of have to go with it and do what you can. I mean, I don’t get it. It’s hard to understand. But I think it was probably to try and make the game a little more exciting.”
He was talking specifically about the high-A pickoff move rule, which went by the wayside about two weeks ago when teams hit the halfway point of their 120-game regular season. The statistics proved that there were more stolen base attempts and the success rate of those attempts improved from about 70 percent to 80 percent overall.
So there’s that. But you certainly could debate how fair it was to ask pitchers to go away from something they’d been doing their whole baseball lives.
Left-handers especially were affected considering they could not lift their front leg in the air and throw over to first base to keep a runner close. You could (and now can again) do that legally, as long as your front foot never crosses the rubber.
“The lefties have to be happier,” Dinkelman said. “They can do that hang move again. That’s part of their game ... It’s a little bit of a disadvantage if you have to step off all the time. You can go first move on them. As soon as they pick up that front leg, steal second base on them.”
“Yeah, that was super frustrating,” said Watson, a southpaw. “Just because I really love my pickoff move. I’ve had a good one since high school. I don’t think I threw once over (to first). If it was ever called for a pickoff when that (rule) was in play, I would just step off and hold the ball. I just didn’t trust myself. I’ve never done that my whole life, so I’m not throwing the ball.”
The feeling is this experiment rule isn’t one that will carry over. At least Watson and Dinkelman hope that’s the case.
“I love the possibility of either throwing to the plate or throwing over,” Watson said. “I feel super comfortable with the rule gone now.”
“I like the (old) rule,” Dinkelman said. “I feel like stolen bases are attempted just as much as before.”
Around the horn
- Former University of Iowa pitchers Trenton Wallace and Drew Irvine are officially former University of Iowa pitchers after signing professional contracts last week. Wallace got a reported bonus of $172,500 after inking a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, who drafted him last week in the 11th round. Irvine’s signing bonus was not announced. He was a 17th-rounder of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both Wallace and Irvine had remaining college eligibility.
- Former Iowa pitcher Nick Allgeyer has been designated for assignment by the Blue Jays, meaning he has been taken off the club’s 40-man roster. Allgeyer made his major-league debut recently, throwing one scoreless relief inning. He was the first former Hawkeye under Coach Rick Heller to appear in a major league game.
- The Houston Astros released former Hawkeyes first baseman Jake Adams last week. Adams was hitting just .141 for Double-A Corpus Christi. The Big Ten Conference’s Player of the Year in 2017 broke Iowa’s single-season home run record with 29 that season, drafted by Houston in the sixth round that year, the highest an Iowa player had been drafted since 1999. Adams hit 50 homers in 304 minor league games and had a .226 batting average.
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