Ladies and gentlemen, we have just one day to go before we have Valley League baseball again… assuming the weather cooperates.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at two rules in the Valley League that might be surprising to even long-time baseball fans.
First of all, the “mercy rule” is returning to the Valley. Instituted at the All-Star game in 2021, the rule is intended to save bullpens from unnecessary innings. Yes, of course, sometimes teams make huge comebacks, like in 2019 when Staunton scored 11 runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie Harrisonburg, but the league has determined that the occasional dramatic comeback is not worth the unneeded pitches on arms. The rule states that the game shall be ended if a team owns a ten run lead after seven innings in a scheduled nine inning game, or after five innings in a seven inning game.
Secondly, the league has adopted the “international tie breaker” rule. The rule states that the batter who made the last out in the ninth inning will start the tenth on second base (and each subsequent inning, if the teams are still tied). Major League Baseball follows this as well, much to the chagrin of traditionalists, but it seems to have mostly kept games from lasting into the wee hours of the morning as they head into the 17th inning or thereabouts. Again, this saves pitching staffs from those extra pitches, which affect how many pitches can be thrown in the days after such a long game. (And keep in mind that VBL staffs do not have a stable of minor league pitchers to count on if needed.)
So while these changes might be jarring at first, hopefully it will make the players’ experiences a little bit better, and get everyone home to bed without extra pitches or innings.