How the updated MLB rules for 2021 will affect the Phillies
On Tuesday Major League Baseball and the player’s union announced that they have reached an agreement on an updated set of rules, as well as health and safety protocols for the upcoming 2021 season.
A few notable rules changes that originated during the 2020 pandemic will continue into 2021
- 7 inning doubleheaders
- Teams will begin extra innings with a runner on 2nd
However, due to ongoing labor tension between the owners and the union, we will not see a continuation of the DH in the National League, or the expanded playoff format that was so popular last season.
At first glance, the rules changes will have a negative impact on the Phillies next season. Of course having only five playoff spots instead of eight hurts the playoff odds of every club. But not having the designated hitter will certainly hamper the flexibility Joe Girardi enjoyed last season and affect no player more than JT Realmuto.
Even the best catchers cant play everyday. While the Phillies are in a good position with an above average backup in Andrew Knapp, losing the DH means Girardi will likely be forced to choose between Rhys Hoskins and JT Realmuto at first base.
JT Realmuto Starts By Position:
- 2020: Catcher: 36, DH: 9, 1B: 6
- 2019: Catcher: 133, DH: 1, 1B: 4
- 2018: Catcher: 112, DH: 1, 1B: 13
It is clear that the designated hitter allowed Realmuto to rest in 2020, while continuing to keep his bat in the lineup. Even in the shortened 60 game format he was penciled in at DH 8 more times than in the previous two seasons. The most Realmuto had ever started at catcher was 133 games in 2019. So we are looking at the possible extinction of the combination of Knapp, Realmuto and Hoskins in the lineup together.
The Phillies have other players with positional flexibility who will also be hurt. Jean Segura, Scott Kingery, Alec Bohm and Adam Haseley are all able to take over for more limited players like Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius and Bryce Harper.
Of course other teams will be hurt by this decision too. Uncertainty surrounding the DH was one of the main reasons it took Marcel Ozuna until last weekend to re-sign with Atlanta. There is no doubting that Ozuna is one of the bets bats in the NL after he finished 6th in MVP voting in 2020. Forcing him to start in left field where he is regarded as below average defensively has to hurt his overall value to the Braves. Just focusing on hitting could have been a major factor in Ozuna’s career best season.
I am struggling to find another National League team who is more negatively affected positionally than the Phillies. Girardi will either have to get creative or be forced to pencil-in his best players in the field more often in 2021. In the end star players like Harper and Realmuto could be forced to sit in 5% or an additional 5-10 games. It may not seem like a huge impact, but in an extremely competitive NL East it could mean the difference between the playoffs and sitting out during October.
Mandatory Credit: Rich Schultz | Getty Images