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MLB to add new pickoff rule to Minor Leagues after Indy Ball experiment

Major League Baseball implemented a new pickoff rule in the lower levels of the Minor League system.

After testing a new pickoff rule in the Atlantic League last season, Major League Baseball has decided to implement it in some levels of the minor leagues for the 2020 season.

According to a report by JJ Cooper of Baseball America, the MLB will implement a rule that requires pitchers to completely step off the rubber before making a pickoff attempt to any base. This eliminates the classic lefty pickoff move where a pitcher can lift their front leg straight up before throwing over to first base. The rule applies only for Class A and below for the 2020 season.

The rule was one that the MLB implemented in the Atlantic League for the second half of last season due to their partnership. Other rules implemented in the Atlantic League in 2019 included batters being able to “steal first” on any pitch not caught by the catcher and no mound visits by pitching coaches or catchers. The Atlantic League also tested out the three batter minimum, which will be used in the majors this season.

The thought behind the new pickoff rule was that it would increase stolen base attempts, thus creating more scoring opportunities. When the rule went into play for the second half, there was a dramatic uptick in stolen base attempts. Stolen base attempts increased from 1.03 per game in the first half to 1.69 per game in the second half. As a result, the success rate increased as well, moving from a 75% success rate in the first half to 81% in the second half. Double plays also dropped, once again creating more scoring opportunities.

Multiple Atlantic League pitchers I spoke to were against the rule, citing the fact that it was much easier for base stealers to get a jump on them.

Per Baseball America, all MLB teams were sent a memo informing them of the changes.

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