Rules review: Should the extra-innings rule stay or go?

Todd Dybas
·2 min read

Rules review: Should the extra-innings rule stay or go? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

This rule stinks.

Let’s get that out of the way off the top. That idea will color everything that is to follow, so might as well shove it into the open from the start.

If you missed it -- lucky you -- Major League Baseball instituted a new extra-innings rule in 2020. A runner started on second base once the game entered the 10th inning. This went on every inning until a team won. Then everyone received a participation trophy.

Really, the intent was to shorten the games to make sure the reduced 60-game season would have a higher chance of being completed and to protect pitchers along the way. The rule had no influence in either regard.

The Nationals played five extra-inning games in 2020. Three ended in the 10th, one went to the 12th, one ended in eight innings as part of a doubleheader. So, they played an extra-inning game 8.3 percent of the time.

The Nationals played 10 extra-inning games in 2019. Six of those ended in 10 innings, three in 11 and one in 14. Which means 60 percent of their extra-inning games finished in 10 innings. In 2020 with the new rule, that number was, wait for it...60 percent.

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Perhaps the best representation that the rule is dumb came during a Sean Doolittle outing Sept. 3 at Philadelphia. Doolittle pitched the 10th inning. He was walked off without allowing a hit. J.T. Realmuto started on second, was bunted to third and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly. Phillies win.

Giving away 180 feet in a game which is entirely predicated on preventing a runner from advancing 90 feet is bizarre. The rule didn’t save time or prevent overly long games which lasted 17 innings. The Nationals have averaged two games annually of more than 12 innings in the last 10 full seasons. In 2018, they played 14 extra-inning games. Eight went 10 innings. You get the idea.

So, the idea of this hokey rule shortening the games did not pan out. It did not add exciting strategy. It was not well-received by the players or managers. Davey Martinez in particular mentioned his dislike of it, and he likes almost everything.

Next year, assuming there is a regular spring training and full season -- or close to it -- the other so-called reason for this rule also goes away. Ideally, this rule itself does the same thing, never to be heard from again.