Yesterday, a conference call with the remaining seven clubs of the Italian Serie A1, led to several decisions for the 2020 season. Most for the good, one likely not so.
First of all, the season will start on Wednesday, July 8 instead of Friday, July 10. The foundation for this decision lies in the fact that the number of games has been raised to three games per series instead of two.
When there were still ten clubs in the mix, they agreed on playing in two separate divisions. But that decision has been turned back as there are only seven clubs left. As a result, there will be just one group of seven clubs.
As a result of the expansion to three games per series, each team will face the other in a home game and two road games or vice versa, all in the same series/week. The first game will be played on Wednesday at 21:00 (9:00 PM). The second and third games are supposed to be played as a doubleheader on Saturday at 16:00 (4:00 PM) and 20:30 (8:30 PM). But it is up to the clubs if they want to follow the Saturday schedule. If they want to they can move one game to Friday night. As a result, 18 games per team will be played this season.
At the end of the season, the top four teams will advance to the playoffs in which best of five series will be played. The series for the Italian championship will be played in a best of seven format.
The three teams that do not make the best four will play for two spots in the Coppa d’Italia (Italian Cup). They will be joined by the two dropouts of the semi-finals of the Italian championship.
Of this set of rules, two are really eye-catching. First of all, the rule that in game two of the series, only Italian Trained Athletes can be used as pitchers. This raises the question “What is an Italian Trained Athlete?” Are these players born in Italy or are these players that play in Italy for a certain amount of time (both Italian born and not Italian born)?
After asking around, the Dutch Baseball Hangout found out with the help of Carolina Maggioli and Marco Mignola that an Italian Trained Athlete is a player who learned to play baseball in Italy (6 years in Little league teams). The rule doesn’t discriminate between nationality.
But the new rule that is the most eye-popping is the one that states that the games of the 2020 season will only last seven innings. The reason? It wasn’t stated on the website of the FIBS itself but someone who is involved in Italian baseball very much explained why. The reason likely is an adaption to the rules of the WBSC. As the WBSC has decided to play all international games in seven innings starting next year, the FIBS and the Serie A1 clubs seem to have decided to adapt to that.
[EDIT] A late reaction by the FIBS learns us that the 7 inning rule was introduced because of the limited number of players/pitchers on the roster now several players from abroad stay away due to the corona pandemic. It will also be used as a test case for future seasons. The FIBS will look at the feedback and act accordingly.
But despite this seven-inning thing, be glad that baseball is back in Italy as well.