My Variant 66 proposes 6-inning games and 6-man lineups. This could be accomplished with an "offense" of six designated hitters that do not play in the field. In this instance you'd have eight fielders as usual (plus the pitcher) comprising "the defense." This would create a league of specialist players that excel at just one facit of play.
Alternately - if you want to make your players both field and hit - you could name a nine-man defense but still limit the batting order to six of them. Under this arrangement you could play two low-hitting gold-glovers with no negative impact on offense.
A recent How They Play blog entry by Steven Gomez proposes abolishing the designated hitter but requiring all nine players to pitch exactly one inning. This basically eliminates pitching as a specialty, forcing all players to develop all three skills essential to the game.
- There is no designated hitter. Everyone in the lineup must play the field. And each lineup position must pitch in a different inning during the game and must throw at least one strike. No player can pitch in consecutive innings (under penalty of ejection).
- If a player currently pitching is injured mid-inning, his substitute (from the bench) completes the inning.
- At the end of the game, one lineup spot for every completed inning must have pitched for each team. Ending a game in violation of this rule will result in the opponent receiving one run for every required lineup spot that did not pitch.
- Game rosters are limited to 15 players to prevent over-use of substitutes.
No pre-set batting order. The batting order is formed as the game progresses. You start the game by naming your defensive line-up. Batters are sent to the plate in any order desired from among the starting nine. Once a player completes an at-bat, he remains in that batting order position for the rest of the game (unless removed for a substitute).
1-2-3 every inning: Start every inning with with the first batter in the lineup. Batters 1, 2, and 3 will bat in every inning. You top-load with your table-setters.
On a four-pitch walk the batter is awarded second base (runners advance if forced). No more avoiding a batter unless you've given him at least one hitable pitch.
If a batter is hit by a pitch outside the strike zone, the batting team is granted an extra out in the current inning. This idea was proposed by Bill James in one of his Baseball Abstracts as an idea to end bean-ball wars. His argument was that awarding first base is not enough of a penalty.
Mercy rule. The game ends if one team leads by 10+ runs at the end of any inning.
Allow tie games. How many times have you thought (during extra innings): "can we get this over with"?
Double-diamond simultaneous play. This idea was actually played in the early 2000's: the National Xtreme Baseball League. It is even registered with the US Patent office (No. 7,658,688). Both teams play at the same time on overlapping basepaths. One team runs the bases clockwise, the other goes counter clockwise.