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Here’s a possible compromise on the extra-inning runner on second base rule

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It’s all part of the Theo Epstein-led effort to fix baseball.

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Of all the pandemic-induced rule changes introduced in MLB over the last couple of years, the one I dislike most is the placed-runner rule that puts a man on second base to begin every extra inning.

In this Jesse Rogers article at ESPN.com, a number of possible changes to baseball rules are discussed. As you know, Theo Epstein took a consulting position in the Commissioner’s office and his principal responsibility is to try to bring more action (read: “fewer strikeouts, more balls in play”) into baseball games.

That’s all well and good and the article, which is worth reading, goes into a lot of detail about this and other potential rule changes.

Here’s what caught my eye for the purposes of this article:

Perhaps the current extra-inning rule — starting every inning after the ninth with a runner on second base — could be tweaked to satisfy the die-hard fan as well as the one who wants to go home before the clock strikes midnight. A solution could come from playing “normal” baseball for the 10th and 11th innings, then instituting a man on second to start every inning after that. That will garner more discussion within MLB.

Games that go 16, 17, 18 innings or more are vanishingly rare, about 0.3 percent of all games over the last decade or so, about one per team every three years. They occasionally become legendary; they often get people talking about baseball. The John Baker Game, for example. In the five-year period 2015-19, the Cubs played only eight games longer than 13 innings and just two — this 18-inning loss to the Yankees in 2017 and this 17-inning loss to the Marlins in 2018 — went longer than 16 innings. To me, the placed-runner rule always seemed like a solution in search of a problem.

I do, however, understand the fatigue issue and what extremely long games like that do to pitching staffs. I’ve proposed previously that any team that plays a game of 13 innings or longer be allowed to add an extra pitcher for their next game, but this doesn’t appear to be on MLB’s radar.

And though I’d prefer to kill the placed-runner rule with fire, perhaps the compromise noted by Jesse Rogers would work.

Here are the number of games across all of MLB that have gone 12 innings or longer over the last 10 full seasons:

2019: 59
2018: 72
2017: 44
2016: 63
2015: 63
2014: 88
2013: 76
2012: 57
2011: 67
2010: 49

That’s an average of about 64 games per year over the previous decade, or about 2.6 percent of all games. That would mean, on average, every MLB team would play about four games a year with a placed runner starting in the 12th inning. Overall, the long-term average of extra-inning games per team is about nine, so if these averages continued, about 55 percent of extra-inning games would be played as “normal” baseball. Or, perhaps a rule like this would put more urgency into play in the 10th or 11th inning to get the game finished with a winner before the placed runner comes into play.

As I said, I’d rather not have the placed runner at all. But I think I could live with it starting in the 12th inning.

What say you?

Poll

Regarding extra-inning games...

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    ... they should be played to completion without a placed runner no matter how long they go
    (241 votes)
  • 14%
    ... I like the current rule with a placed runner in the 10th inning
    (107 votes)
  • 45%
    ... I don’t really like the placed runner but could live with it in the 12th inning and later
    (343 votes)
  • 5%
    ... games should end in ties after 12 innings
    (38 votes)
  • 3%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (23 votes)
752 votes total Vote Now