Four of the majors’ 30 teams will open the regular season July 23, while the other 26 will begin on the 24th, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. As a 60-game campaign with various notable rule changes – including a universal designated hitter – as well as possibly no fans in the stands, it figures to go down as one of the strangest baseball seasons ever. Of course, those are far from the only aspects of the sport that will be drastically altered this year. Extra-innings games will also look far different, to name one example.
Every year features at least some marathon games, but it appears we’ll see far fewer this regular season. Once the 10th inning rolls around (and if games extend beyond then), the hitting team will have a distinct advantage because it will begin the frame with a runner on second. That player will be the one who made the last out in the previous inning, though clubs will be able to select a pinch runner if they wish. Should the runner who started the inning on second score, the pitcher would not be charged with an earned run. Notably, this change to extras will not extend into the playoffs, nor is it sure to stick around past this year.
There are at least a couple potential pros to this rule, which has been used in the minor leagues and in the World Baseball Classic in recent years. For one, it should help teams keep relievers’ workloads down. It will also undoubtedly help speed up games, as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explains that 44 percent of minor league games from 2016-17 ended before the 11th inning. But since the minors placed a runner on second in 2018, 73 percent of extra-inning contests have concluded in the 10th. Additionally, there’s an argument it makes games more exciting, considering the level of drama’s turned up right at the start of extras.
On the flip side, there are lots of baseball fans who don’t mind the occasional extra-long game, not to mention plenty of purists who don’t want the game revised to such a significant extent. Astros manager Dusty Baker is one prominent example of someone who’s not thrilled with the rule, as he told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, “This will be something new for us, but I hope it doesn’t go into next year or subsequent years.”
Are you in agreement with Baker, or are you hoping this new setup will have staying power? (Poll link for app users)