May 3, 2022 - Sports

MLB implements first-ever position-specific cap

Data: Baseball Reference; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Baseball Reference; Chart: Axios Visuals

MLB rosters were reduced from 28 to 26 players on Monday, and no more than 14 can be pitchers, marking the first position-specific cap in league history.

Why it matters: There's no stopping the technological advancements that have made pitchers better than ever, but this limit should at least mitigate their dominance, which has yielded historically low offense.

State of play: In April, league-wide batting average (.231) was its lowest since 1968, while slugging percentage (.369) and runs scored per nine innings (4.12) were their lowest since 1992, per The Ringer.

  • Starting pitchers have faced opposing hitters for at least a third time in a game in a record-low 15.3% of plate appearances through Sunday, indicative of managers' militant use of analytics, which tells them when starters will be least effective.
  • Batters are hitting .273 in their third (or more) appearance against a starter this season, compared to .232 in their first two appearances. A pitcher cap will force managers to leave them on the mound longer.
  • On May 30, the 14-pitcher cap will be reduced to 13, and there have been reports of further reductions to 12 or even 11 in the future.

The bottom line: MLB hopes fewer pitchers leads to more offense, while also limiting the barrage of pitching changes that slow the game down.

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