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Major League Baseball Announces Experimental Playing Rule for Triple-A Level

March 11, 2021

(SUGAR LAND, TEXAS) – Major League Baseball today announced experimental playing rules across Minor League Baseball, including the Triple-A level, which will affect the Sugar Land Skeeters for the 2021 Triple-A Championship Season. The following playing rule will be in effect across the Triple-A level starting in 2021: TRIPLE-A (LARGER

(SUGAR LAND, TEXAS) – Major League Baseball today announced experimental playing rules across Minor League Baseball, including the Triple-A level, which will affect the Sugar Land Skeeters for the 2021 Triple-A Championship Season.

The following playing rule will be in effect across the Triple-A level starting in 2021:

TRIPLE-A (LARGER BASES): To reduce player injuries and collisions, the size of first, second and third base will be increased from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. The Competition Committee also expects the shorter distances between bases created by increased size to have a modest impact on the success rate of stolen base attempts and the frequency with which a batter-runner reaches base on groundballs and bunt attempts.”

Skeeters President Christopher Hill said the following regarding the experimental rule: “Fans who’ve been to Constellation Field will definitely recognize some of these rule changes from when we were an independent club. Major League Baseball is committed to improving the game and we're excited to continue to be a part of that.”

The Skeeters are currently taking season-ticket deposits for the 2021 season — their first as the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. For more information on how to place a season-ticket deposit, visit sugarlanadskeeters.com/ticketdesposits.

Below are the experimental playing rules that will be implemented across other levels of Minor League Baseball:

DOUBLE-A (DEFENSIVE POSITIONING): The defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, each of whom must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt. Depending on the preliminary results of this experimental rule change, MLB may require two infielders to be positioned entirely on each side of second base in the second half of the Double-A season. These restrictions on defensive positioning are intended to increase the batting average on balls in play.

HIGH-A (“STEP OFF” RULE): Pitchers are required to disengage the rubber prior to throwing to any base, with the penalty of a balk in the event the pitcher fails to comply. MLB implemented a similar rule in the second half of the Atlantic League season in 2019, which resulted in a significant increase in stolen base attempts and an improved success rate after adoption of the rule.

LOW-A (PICKOFF LIMITATION, PITCH TIMER, AND ABS): ALL LOW-A LEAGUES: Pitchers will be limited to a total of two “step offs” or “pickoffs” per plate appearance while there is at least one runner on base. A pitcher may attempt a third step off or pickoff in the same plate appearance; however, if the runner safely returns to the occupied base, the result is a balk. Depending on the preliminary results of this experimental rule change, MLB will consider reducing the limitation to a single “step off” or “pickoff” per plate appearance with at least one runner on base.

LOW-A SOUTHEAST: *In addition to the limitations on step offs/pickoffs, MLB will expand testing of the Automatic Ball-Strike System (“ABS”) that began in the Atlantic League and Arizona Fall League to select Low-A Southeast games to assist home plate umpires with calling balls and strikes, ensure a consistent strike zone is called, and determine the optimal strike zone for the system.

LOW-A WEST: In addition to the limitations on step offs/pickoffs, following successful pace of game rules testing among Florida State League teams in 2019, on-field timers (one in the outfield, two behind home plate between the dugouts) will be implemented to enforce time limits between delivery of pitches, inning breaks and pitching changes. The on-field timer used in Low-A West will include new regulations beyond the system currently used in Triple-A and Double-A to reduce game length and improve the pace of play.”

“We are listening to our fans. This effort is an important step towards bringing to life rules changes aimed at creating more action and improving the pace of play,” said Michael Hill, MLB Senior Vice President of On-Field Operations. “These experimental playing rules have been approved by the Competition Committee and the Playing Rules Committee to be tested and analyzed in a highly competitive environment.”