2019 Major League Baseball

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The 2019 Major League Baseball season was the twentieth season in which the two major leagues, the National League and the American League, are consolidated into a single entity under the authority of the Commissioner, Rob Manfred.

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The 2019 Major League Baseball season opened on March 20th with a two-game series between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. After that, on March 28th, all 30 teams were active for the official stateside launch of the season. The season also featured the first-ever regular season games to be played in Europe, with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees meeting in London, England on June 29th and 30th for the inaugural "London Series".

As has now become an annual tradition, in January MLB proposed some rule changes for the upcoming season, although these needed agreement from the Players' Association. Those changes included the long talked-about introduction of a pitch clock in order to speed up the pace of play, and changes to the use of the disabled list to make it less flexible. This last move was to counter a recent tendency of teams to bloat their bullpen by using the disabled list creatively in order to multiply the number of relievers available on any particular day; by reverting the minimum stay to 15 days instead of 10 and also lengthening the minimum time before a player can be called up after being sent to the minor leagues on option, the hope was to restrain these shenanigans and force teams to use a more stable roster. The Players Association came back with its own list of proposals, including universal usage of the designated hitter and forcing a three batters faced minimum per pitcher (barring injury). Instead of proceeding immediately with such changes, MLB reached an agreement with the independent Atlantic League on March 8th for that circuit to test out some of these proposals and other even more radical ones, such as moving back the pitcher's mound by two feet, using larger bases, limiting defensive shifts and implementing the three batters minimum rule for relief pitchers. Also being tested out should have been the use of MLB's PITCHf/x strike zone system as a substitute for rulings on balls and strikes by the home plate umpire, although this was delayed until mid-season because of issues with the underlying technology.

The actual rule changes for the major leagues were announced on March 14th. While the idea of a pitch clock was dropped, other measures adopted included: lowering the number of mound visits from six to five, after the rule was successfully introduced in 2018; a shorter break between innings; making the July 31st trading deadline a hard one, with no trades allowed for the two remaining months of the season; a shift in procedure for nominating starters in the All-Star Game and additional bonuses for participants in the Home Run Derby; beginning in 2020, a clear roster limit, with 26 during the first five months and 28 for September, with all teams being required to respect the limits; and a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, also starting in 2020.

In a development similar to what had gone on the previous off-season, the free agent market was again slow, with the the two biggest names, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, still unsigned as February began. At age 26, both would have been the object of bidding wars in past years; they represented just the tip of the iceberg, though, as some 90 free agents were also still looking for jobs. A lot of the problem seemed to come from top-tier clubs who had been driving the market in the past but were now reluctant to make large offers, fearful of a combination of luxury tax punishments and of being stuck with large, unproductive contracts a few years down the road. The controversy about there being a number of teams who were not really interested in competing also came up again, with experts considering that 7 teams were in full rebuilding mode, and 6 others sputtering without making any clear attempt to improve their on-field product beyond achieving minimal respectability. Both Harper and Machado signed large contracts after the opening of camp, but others were not so lucky, most prominently pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel who had to wait until the amateur draft was held in early June to be signed by a team.

Among the early trends of the season were a clear drop in attendance across the board, and a continued move towards a style of play dominated by home runs and strikeouts. Home run totals were completely unprecedented: there were 1,135 homers hit during May, the most hit in a month in major league history, displacing August of 2017, when there were 1,119. There had also been more homers hit in April than ever before that month, although this was skewed by the fact there were also more games played in April than ever. June saw another homer record be set, with 1,142 being hit. On September 11th, the 6,106th homer of the year was hit, topping the former record of 6,105 set in 2017. Already the record for most homers in a season by a team had been broken by both the Minnesota Twins and Yankees, while the Los Angeles Dodgers had broken the National League mark. The Yankees had also set the monthly record in August. On September 24th, it was the strikeout record's turn to fall, as the 41,208th K of the year overtook the mark set the previous season. It was the third straight season over 40,000, a total that had never been reached before 2017. The polarization of teams was extremely clear, as a record-breaking four teams recorded 100 or more wins, while a record-tying four more had 100 or more losses. The final totals were 6,776 homers, an 11% increase over the previous high mark, and 42,823 strikeouts. Measures to speed up pace of play were not obviously successful either, as the average game time was 3:05:35, the longest ever.


Further Reading[edit]

  • Associated Press: "Changing times: Baseball rife with new rules, approaches", USA Today, March 28, 2019. [1]
  • Associated Press: "Major League Baseball finishes with 6,776 homers, 11% above previous record", USA Today, September 29, 2019. [2]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "19 bold predictions for MLB in 2019", mlb.com, January 1, 2019. [3]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Rule changes coming this year and next: Post-July trades eliminated, inning breaks shortened; 3-batter minimum and more in 2020", mlb.com, March 14, 2019. [4]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Here are some bonkers stats from a wild season", mlb.com, September 3, 2019. [5]
  • Tim Dahlberg (Associated Press): "Real change in baseball is yet to come", USA Today, March 15, 2019. [6]
  • Richard Justice: "Nine things we learned in the first half", mlb.com, July 10, 2019. [7]
  • Gabe Lacques: "MLB 2019: The game's evolution will only get dizzier", USA Today, December 12, 2018. [8]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Opinion: From hot stove to death march, baseball is screwing itself one cold winter at a time", USA Today, January 7, 2019. [9]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Which MLB teams are actually trying to win in 2019?", USA Today, February 5, 2019. [10]
  • Gabe Lacques: "MLB rule changes are wise – but be careful what you wish for", USA Today, February 6, 2019. [11]
  • Gabe Lacques: "12 sobering numbers to know as pitchers, catchers - most of them - report to spring training", USA Today, February 12, 2019. [12]
  • Gabe Lacques: "MLB win totals: How we see the 2019 season unfolding", USA Today, March 5, 2019. [13]
  • Gable Lacques: "MLB rules changes a big step forward, but 3-batter minimum will be reviled", USA Today, May 14, 2019. [14]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Just how wild is MLB's home run onslaught? These numbers tell the story", USA Today, June 17, 2019. [15]
  • Gabe Lacques: "MLB's burning second-half questions: The return of the 60-home run season?", USA Today, USA Today, July 11, 2019. [16]
  • Will Leitch: "20 (good and bad) first-half surprises", mlb.com, June 29, 2019. [17]
  • Bob Nightengale: "MLB proposes rules changes including return to 15-day DL, pitch clock", USA Today, January 24, 2019. [18]
  • Bob Nightengale: "MLB's free agency freeze is an embarrassment for baseball", USA Today, February 5, 2019. [19]
  • Bob Nightengale: "MLB to fix baseball's worst problem: Uneven rosters, terrible September games", USA Today, March 14, 2019. [20]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Is MLB's ball juiced? Home runs are being hit at record pace and pitchers just want the truth", USA Today, May 2, 2019. [21]
  • Mike Petriello: "7 important MLB trends to watch in 2019: More sliders, fewer strikes and lots of wild pitches", mlb.com, February 19, 2019. [22]
  • Manny Randhawa: "2019 statistical feats and oddities for each team", mlb.com, December 20, 2019. [23]
  • Andrew Simon: "We're in a golden age of young hitters", mlb.com, August 20, 2019. [24]
  • Andrew Simon, Matt Kelly and David Adler: "19 bonkers stats that defined baseball in '19", mlb.com, December 26, 2019. [25]

See also[edit]