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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Runner-on-Second in Extras Rule Has Worn Out Its Welcome

If you’re noticing a slight tilt in that graph, with higher percentages of extra-innings games in days of yore, pandemic notwithstanding, you’re not wrong. Before this year, just once since 1992 had the percentage of extra-inning games reached 10%, a level that was far more common in the 1960s and ’70s; that happened in 2013, when teams scored a comparatively meager 4.17 runs per game. As scoring levels drop, the percentage of extra-innings games tends to rise; the lower scoring means a compressed distribution where lower run totals occur more frequently, and fewer teams erupt for run totals that almost never lead to ties after nine innings. The correlation between scoring levels and extra-innings rates from 1961-2020 is -.63, which is pretty solid but hardly perfect. In the 10 post-expansion seasons with the highest rates of extra innings games (10.1% or higher), teams scored just 4.17 runs per game, while in the 10 seasons with the lowest rates (8.3% or lower), teams averaged 4.72 runs per game….

Only twice have we seen teams average 4.40 runs per game in seasons where at least 10% of those games go into extras. Not that there’s a huge difference between a more normal rate rate of, say, 8% than 10%; over the course of a full season, that’s about two more such games per week, and for a single team, it’s the difference between 13 and 16 games per season. Even so, the combination of the proliferation of such games with their jarring break from one of the game’s most basic tenets — every inning starts with a clean slate of no baserunners — is as grating as nails on the blackboard to at least some ears.

And here’s the kicker: as for the actual time saved, it doesn’t amount to much. The average extra-innings game in 2018 clocked in at 239.7 minutes (four hours, basically) and fell to 229.3 minutes in ’19. With the runner on second rule in place, that shrank all the way to 224.5 minutes last year, a drop of just under five minutes. This year? They’re back up to 226.3 minutes. In other words, we’re talking about a savings of somewhere between five and 10 minutes for a slice of games that’s in the ballpark of 10%, all in exchange for a major disruption of baseball’s rules and accounting that produces far more bunts and intentional walks.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 11, 2021 at 12:30 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: extra innings rule

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   1. Traderdave Posted: May 11, 2021 at 01:42 PM (#6018282)
How can something that never existed be worn out?
   2. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 11, 2021 at 02:33 PM (#6018292)
As a time-saving device, the runner-on-second thing is pretty dumb. After all, if it increases the chances of a run being scored in the top of the 10th (I presume it does, haven't seen the data), doesn't it also increase the chances of a run being scored in the bottom of the 10th?

You know something that slows the game down? When there is a runner on second base, and the pitcher and catcher have to use elaborate systems to avoid the stealing of signs. Maybe it is just a faulty memory, but I do not remember in the 1980s or 1990s this being as big a deal. When you start an extra inning with a runner on second base, the inning *starts* with that slowed pace. How is that, in the long run, going to save much time?
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 11, 2021 at 02:46 PM (#6018300)
Don't try to interject facts into the conversation. Manfred knows what he knows.
   4. GregD Posted: May 11, 2021 at 02:51 PM (#6018304)
As a time-saving device, the runner-on-second thing is pretty dumb. After all, if it increases the chances of a run being scored in the top of the 10th (I presume it does, haven't seen the data), doesn't it also increase the chances of a run being scored in the bottom of the 10th?
I think what it's trying to avoid is a string of extra innings without a run scored. And there's some additional excitement to going into the bottom of the 10th with the visitors up 1. There are now 3 outcomes: win, extend, or lose. in the old way, if there's a goose egg in the top, there are only two outcomes for the bottom. It's kind of silly but it doesn't bother me.
   5. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 11, 2021 at 03:10 PM (#6018311)
You know something that slows the game down? When there is a runner on second base, and the pitcher and catcher have to use elaborate systems to avoid the stealing of signs. Maybe it is just a faulty memory, but I do not remember in the 1980s or 1990s this being as big a deal.

I think it's more due to the contemporary existence of hi-def super-zoom cameras that could be anywhere in the ballpark surveilling anything. No one put their glove or their hand over their mouth during mound conferences in the 80's or 90's either for the same reason.
   6. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: May 11, 2021 at 03:10 PM (#6018312)
I don't mind it. It does seem to expediate things, and honestly, with the pace of play and general unruly aesthetic of the modern game, I'm on board with that.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: May 11, 2021 at 03:24 PM (#6018319)
As a time-saving device, the runner-on-second thing is pretty dumb. After all, if it increases the chances of a run being scored in the top of the 10th (I presume it does, haven't seen the data), doesn't it also increase the chances of a run being scored in the bottom of the 10th?


I think it makes sense*, although there's probably an even more optimal set-up. What you want to find is a situation that provides the best opportunity for a different number of runs to be scored by each team. I'm assuming (though I'll let the more mathy among you figure this out), that creating a condition that leads to a 50 percent chance of that run being scored is ideal to generate the quickest ending. A runner on third and no outs would be more likely to see both teams score one run, whereas starting the inning with nobody on with two outs is going to lead to an awful lot of scoreless innings. Runner on second and nobody out probably hits the sweet spot as well as anything.

*It makes sense if the goal is ending the game. It doesn't make sense if your goal is playing a baseball game without an abomination for an ending.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 11, 2021 at 03:51 PM (#6018325)
I think it makes sense*, although there's probably an even more optimal set-up. What you want to find is a situation that provides the best opportunity for a different number of runs to be scored by each team.

Extra innings start with bases loaded and two-out. That should end most games in the 10th.
   9. Jim P Posted: May 11, 2021 at 04:03 PM (#6018327)
How about the "you cut, I choose" sudden death? Home manager sets the base-out state, visiting manager chooses whether to bat or pitch, and if a team scores, they win, and if they don't, they lose.
   10. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: May 11, 2021 at 04:24 PM (#6018332)
They could always do what they do in Hockey, and get rid of one of the defensive players. It'd be like the old days when Timmy had to go home early for piano practice and now you didn't have a right fielder. The only thing GOOD about the runner on second biz is that it suddenly makes what we might call "little ball" strategies slightly more valuable.
   11. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 11, 2021 at 04:36 PM (#6018334)
I read recently that extra innings games have seen a big jump in TV ratings on the MLB app since they implemented it. I hated it when they put it in but I quickly found myself watching it. I had similar experience with the modified overtime and shootouts in NHL but grew to like that as well. I wouldn't want to see it in the post-season but once in awhile over the course of 162 game season it's pretty fun.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: May 11, 2021 at 05:34 PM (#6018351)
They could always do what they do in Hockey, and get rid of one of the defensive players.

The shift leaves practically half of the infield wide open already.
   13. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: May 11, 2021 at 09:20 PM (#6018409)
The Runner-on-Second in Extras Rule Has Worn Out Its Welcome

In a related story, this whole pandemic thing is starting to get annoying.
   14. Moeball Posted: May 12, 2021 at 04:05 AM (#6018493)
The extra inning runner on second situation artificially creates a demand for bunting strategies. If more players start bunting, will any actually get good at it?

But heaven help the player who tries to bunt for a hit in this situation. The opposing pitcher is likely to go ballistic!
   15. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 12, 2021 at 10:52 AM (#6018516)
I read recently that extra innings games have seen a big jump in TV ratings on the MLB app since they implemented it.

Lots of people slow down on the other side of the highway to give them more time to gawk slackjawedly at crashes too.

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