MLB to use the runner-on-second rule for extra innings this year

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Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Major League Baseball plans to implement a rule for the 2020 season in which extra innings games will feature innings starting with a runner on second base. The idea is to expedite the ending of games which end in a tie after nine innings given that the schedule will be so tight this year and long games will create greater problems this year than they normally would.

The runner-on-second rule has been in place in the minor leagues for the past two seasons. Under the minor league rule the runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the leadoff batter of the extra inning. So, usually, the guy who made the last out in the previous inning or a pinch runner for that guy. If the placed runner scored, it’s considered an unearned run.

The rule was pioneered in the World Baseball Classic and was tested in the Gulf Coast League and Arizona League before 2018, when all minor leagues adopted it. In 2017 Rob Manfred said he doubted the rule would ever be used in the majors, but I don’t suppose anyone could’ve anticipated what baseball in 2020 would look like.

For what it’s worth, I’ve attended minor league games in which the rule was used. It was . . . fine. If you have somewhere to be or if you need to wake up early the next morning it’s probably preferable to an 18-inning game you can’t stay awake for, but as far as baseball action goes, it’s pretty anticlimactic. It almost always causes the first batter of the inning to bunt the runner over to third and the games usually end pretty quickly. If that’s your bag, great, but it has all of the excitement of an NFL overtime game ending on an opening drive field goal.