The now “independent” Pioneer League has announced a set of rule changes. The most eye catching is the rule that bans extra innings.
The first rule change is a “check swing” appeal from the home plate umpire after the base umpire (first or third) has made a call on a check swing appeal by the pitcher or catcher.
Another rule change is the Designated Pinch Hitter rule. This allows a team to use a player that has not entered the game previously, to hit for an eligible roster player. This roster player may return into the field after the Designated Pinch Hitter has had his turn. The Designated Pinch Hitter may not return for the remainder of the game. The Designated Pinch Hitter rule may be used only once by each team during a game.
A similar rule change is the Designated Pinch Runner rule. In fact it is the same rule as mentioned above, only the world Pinch Hitter is replaced by Pinch Runner.
But the rule with perhaps the most impact is the abolishment of extra innings. So no more “free” baseball. The Pioneer League explained the rule change as follows: “To avoid the excessive strain on our pitching staffs, the Pioneer Baseball League will not have extra innings but rather will employ a first-of-its-kind “knock out” rule that resolves tied games with a head-to-head “sudden death” home run duel. Under the rule, each team designates a hitter who receives five pitches. The team of which player hits the most home runs, wins. If the game is still tied after this sudden death, a two new hitters are appointed until one of the the teams hits the winning home run.
Baseball purists will hate this and yours truly must admit that he is not sold on the idea. But especially the abolishment of extra innings is understandable. These clubs do not have a huge pitching staff as MLB clubs, who an also call up pitchers from their farm system in case of injuries. So in order to safe their pitchers from getting injured, this move is understandable. At least they don’t come up with that stupid tie-breaker rule with runners on first (and second) base.