Potential rule change for 2021

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Potential rule change for 2021

Postby Kevin » Sun Mar 08, 2020 12:34 pm

Mike drafting Jesus Luzardo was a nice reminder that I want to get a thread started about a potential rule change for 2021. Marc and I traded a few emails on the following topic, but I want to bring it here for an open discussion.

The issue is position designations for pitchers, particularly those who are/were used in dual roles as both a starter and a reliever. First, a reminder about how things work today. Like position players, a pitcher's SP/RP designation is primarily based on what role they had the previous season. Pitchers who make all of their appearances as a starter are designated as SPs, while those who make all of their appearances out of the bullpen will be RPs the next year, regardless of their projected role. What differs from position players is that pitchers who split their time between starting and relieving are not necessarily assigned to the role in which they were used most often. In those situations, I make the determination based upon their expected role for the upcoming year. And I tend to lean towards SP when in doubt, to try and minimize the number of starting pitchers who occupy RP slots.

In this new era of pitcher usage, the number of pitchers who are making appearances as both a starter and a reliever is skyrocketing. This is especially true for MLB teams that frequently use "openers", who are really just relief pitchers who happen to get the start and go an inning or two before turning it over to someone else. It used to be that there would only be one or two pitcher designation decisions that I had to make each year. But I would bet I had no fewer than a dozen decisions to make this year, and some of them were not easy due to projected mixed role usage. What I absolutely want to do is to get myself out of the process by coming up with strict guidelines to use.

The way I see it, there are several options we have to fix this situation. I'll run through the ones that come to mind now, but please don't hesitate to add other ideas you may have.

Option 1 - Basically, don't change anything with the existing rules, but create strict criteria to use to determine which position a pitcher should be designated to if they were used as both a starter and a reliever the previous year. This could be accomplished with a percentage delimiter, whether it be percentage of appearances as a SP vs. RP, or innings pitched. The good: really not much changes and we keep doing things the way we always have, but without me needing to be responsible for making tough decisions. The bad: this doesn't really solve anything w/r/t pitchers who are used as openers, or other non-traditional usages. It could turn a pitcher who is frequently used as an opener to a SP slot, making them nearly worthless in this league.

Option 2 - Same as option 1, except instead of using the previous year's appearance percentages, we could use projected usages instead. We would need to determine which projection system to use, but I'll offer FanGraphs Depth Charts as a good choice since it seems to be pretty accurate. The Pros/Cons are essentially the same as option 1, but I'll add another pro being that we would probably have even fewer cases of likely SPs falling into RP slots if it is based on projections for the upcoming season. And I guess we could take this a step further and use this to determine position designation for *all* pitchers, not just the ones who split time the year before.

Option 3 - Really shake things up and get rid of pitcher position designations altogether. Each team would have nine pitcher slots that could be filled by any pitcher they want. So there would be no need for SP/RP designations and whatever they are listed as would simply be cosmetic. I would suggest if we go this route, we also institute an innings limit though, which would basically force teams to use no more than five full time starting pitchers for a majority of the season. I'd like to be able to keep the total number of SPs and RPs that are in the league's player pool pretty close to what it is now. Without an innings limit, some teams might opt to stream 8 or 9 SPs, meaning we'd run out of them in a hurry with the current distribution.

Option 4 - Get rid of pitcher position designation, but keep the slots as they are today (5 SP, 4 RP). You would be able to put all of your pitchers in any slot you want. But they would only accumulate stats if they are placed in the slot that matches their actual MLB usage. For instance, if you have a pitcher in a RP slot, but he winds up starting a game, those stats don't count. The main benefit of this option is that teams wouldn't get to use guys who are starters in RP slots, but have flexibility in case a pitcher's role changes throughout the season. I think this would be an ideal solution if this were a daily transaction league. But I see some problems with it in a weekly transaction league. Also, I would need to make some pretty significant code changes to allow for this.

Option 5 - Something of a hybrid from all of the above, where a couple of the roster slots become flexible and can be occupied by SPs or RPs. Let's say there would be 4 SP, 3 RP and 2 flex pitcher slots. We'd still need to come up with one of the above methods of determining position designations though. And an innings limit could be in order here as well. The reason for picking this option would be to make it less advantageous to have a SP in a RP slot since every team could conceivably have an extra SP if they wish.

I'm sure there are other options I'm not thinking of, so please chime in with your thoughts. We have some time to figure this out since it won't take affect until 2021.
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