Last week, Major League Baseball officially announced its rule changes for the 2020 season that we had heard about several months ago. These include the three-batter minimum for relievers (unless the inning ends), longer minimum stays for pitchers on the injured list (from 10 days to 15), a longer minimum option period for pitchers sent down to the minors (from 10 days to 15) and a 28-player roster standard for September.
The most intriguing MLB rule change, however, is the change from a 25-man roster through Aug. 31 to 26 players. I’ve long advocated for a change in roster size, an acknowledgement that pitcher usage — and the number of pitchers rostered — has changed dramatically in the last two-plus decades.
For example, in 1977, six teams maxed out at 13 pitchers used the entire season. In 1978, no team used more than 18 pitchers. In 2019, 20 teams used at least 30 different pitchers with the Mariners maxing out at 42. The Cardinals used the fewest with 23. The days of the nine-man staff are ancient history and even 11-man pitching staffs almost feel like another generation ago.
As teams increasingly carried more pitchers on the roster — most teams carried 13 for much of the…