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Attack on the 'LOOGY': Will MLB's Upcoming Rules Changes Doom a Key Bullpen Weapon and Change the Way the Game is Managed?

Oliver Perez is the face of the left-handed, one-out guy, aka "LOOGY."

But the 38-year-old, who has pursued two distinct approaches over a 17-year career, is on the verge of becoming a dinosaur. And Major League Baseball is ready to tell him he's done--ready or not.

Among the rules being implemented by MLB for the 2020 season is the requirement for a relief pitcher to face at least three batters before he can be replaced in a game, unless an inning ends prior to that being accomplished.

So much for the ongoing efforts of Perez. In his first life as a big-league pitcher, he appeared in 196 games from 2002-10, all but one of them as a starter while compiling a 58-67 record and 4.58 ERA. He found himself back at the Double-A level in 2011, starting for the Washington Nationals' Harrisburg affiliate before returning to his native Mexico. He reinvented himself as a LOOGY in winter ball, working only 14.1 innings in 23 appearances and striking out 19.

He reappeared in the majors the following season, making only cameo appearances out of the bullpen, and he was still going strong in 2019.

Perez has enjoyed big-league opportunities in each of those eight years, and each season has ended with him having worked fewer innings than he had appearances.

And he is not alone.

In the last 19 seasons, 881 left-handed relievers made at least 30 appearances, and 688 of them (78.1 percent) recorded fewer innings than appearances.

It is easily the most controversial of the changes that MLB has undertaken in recent years, a rule that will impact a number of veteran players and drastically impact the in-game strategy of major-league teams.

In addition to requiring the extended effort of a reliever, here are the key rule changes and adjustments going into effect in 2020:

* The maximum size of the active roster--from Opening Day through August 31--will increase from 25 to 26 players, and the new rule requires teams to have a minimum of 25 players. Teams can add a 27th player to the active roster for doubleheaders, up from the previous 26th man. With the expanded roster, teams will be limited to 13 active pitchers.

* Instead of being allowed to activate the entire 40-man roster in September, teams will be limited to carrying 28 active players, although they will be able to adjust the makeup of the roster during the course of the regular season's final month.

* Teams will have to designate a player as a pitcher or a position player, prior to a player's first day on the active roster for the given season. The designation cannot be changed during that season and postseason. A position player can, however, be used as a pitcher in an extra-inning game or if one team is winning by six or more runs.

A player can be classified as a "two-way player" if he pitches at least 20 major-league innings and appears in a minimum of 20 major-league games as a position player in the current season or previous season.

* The minimum time for a pitcher on the Injured List will be increased from 10 days to 15 days, and a pitcher assigned to the minor leagues will have the minimum length for his assignment increased from 10 days to 15 days.

These changes come after a series of rules adjustments were implemented in 2019, including a single trade deadline of July 31 and the reduction of the number of mound visits a team is allowed from six to five.

Will the moves be a positive or a negative? Baseball Digest sought opinions from the Commissioner's Office, the dugout and the press box.

Requiring a Relief Pitcher to Face a Minimum of Three Ratters or Finish an Inning

View from MLB

Dan Halem

MLB Deputy Commissioner, Baseball Administration and Chief Legal Officer

"The primary idea is it cuts down on the number of mid-inning pitching changes. It reduces the visits. It does maybe provide an advantage to the offense team."

View from the Dugout

A.J. Hinch

Houston Astros manager

"It will change the game, and I'm not sure for the better. The manager won't be able to stack his lineup. The game changes so rapidly. When you look at the surface, it doesn't seem the change is that big of a deal, but the game changes at-bat to at-bat. You bring a guy in with runners on first and third in a 1-1 game, and the hitter doubles, giving the team at bat a 3-1 lead. And you can't make a move for two more batters. You wind up extending a pitcher more than you want to, and that could affect decisions in ensuing games."

Bud Black

Colorado Rockies manager

"I don't like this one. It messes with the strategy of the game. The manager of a team should be able to use his pitching staff in a strategic manner. It is just like I don't feel we should have rules restricting shifts. If a team wants to shift, that's fine, and the offensive team needs to adjust and hit the ball away from the shift."

View from the Press Box

Tracy Ringolsby

44-year veteran baseball writer 2005 J.G. Taylor Spink Award honoree

"This definitely gives the offensive team an advantage. To even the playing field, the rule would be better served if the offensive team continues to be allowed to pinch-hit for the first batter--which is often the case--but no longer allowed to hit for the next two hitters. If the hands are tied for the team in the field, they should also be tied for the team at the plate. This would force managers to create better balance in a lineup, instead of stacking hitters."

Expanding the Regular-Season Roster to 26 Players with a September Expansion to 28 Players

View from MLB

Halem: "We have the strong desire to improve September baseball by eliminating the number of pitching changes. In terms of service time, the changes will make that virtually neutral. In the past, the games in September have been very different (than the rest of the season) in many respects. Primarily you see more pitchers, longer games. It's a different competitive game. This move keeps the game more in line with the rest of the season."

View from the Dugout

Black: "It is fair to everybody. Most teams keep 13 pitchers. When you get to September you can expand your roster by two players, but you can also keep other players in shape and still make roster changes if there is an injury or another issue comes up. The way it has been, you spend five months battling with a 25-man roster, and all of a sudden you can have as many as 40 players. There's no uniform approach."

View from the Press Box

Ringolsby: "It never has made sense that when you get to the most strategic part of the season, when pennant races are decided, teams suddenly carry a roster of as many as 40 players. It changes the entire approach to the way a game was played the five previous months. To limit the players is a bonus, and to provide flexibility to make roster changes keeps a team from getting into a bind because of injuries."

Extending Minimum Days on Injured List for a Pitcher from 10 to 15 Days and Changing the Minimum Option for a Pitcher from 10 Days to 15

View from MLB

Halem: "With teams allowed to option players down for 10 days, there were some who were basically using it to shuffle pitchers up and down, using the Injured List to create an extra roster spot."

View from the Dugout

Marcel Lachemann

Los Angeles Angels special assistant Former major-league pitcher, pitching coach and manager

"This brings a stability back to the game. With pitchers on a 10-day Injured List, it was too easy to manipulate your roster. If you had an off day coming up, you could send a starting pitcher down, bring up a player for another role, and not have to juggle the rotation before bringing that pitcher back up. It's the same with putting the pitcher on the Injured List. The intent of the rule was being violated."

View from the Press Box

Ringolsby: "This merely cleans up a problem that was created by shortening the option/Injured List moves to 10 days. This forces a team to be more serious about its decisions to move a player."

By Tracy Ringolsby

Year    Team      W   L  SV  SVO    G    INN    H  R     ER   HR   BB

2012    Sea       1   3  0    2    33   29.2   27    7    7   1    10
2013    Sea       3   3  2    3    61   53.0   50   23   22   6    26
2014    Ari       3   4  0    1    68   58.2   50   25   19   5    24
2015    Ari/Hou   2   4  0    3    70   41.0   39   24   19   4    15
2016    Was       2   3  0    1    64   40.0   38   22   22   4    20
2017    Was       0   0  1    1    50   33.0   32   17   17   4    12
2018    Cle       1   1  0    0    51   32.1   17    6    5   1     7
2019    Cle       2   4  1    5    67   40.2   38   20   18   5    12
Totals           16  27  4   16   464  328.1  291  144  129  30   126

Year    Team      SO  ERA

2012    Sea       24  2.12
2013    Sea       74  3.74
2014    Ari       76  2.91
2015    Ari/Hou   51  4.17
2016    Was       46  4.95
2017    Was       39  4.64
2018    Cle       43  1.39
2019    Cle       48  3.98
Totals           401  3.54
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Author:Ringolsby, Tracy
Publication:Baseball Digest
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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