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MLB’s extra-innings rules are here to stay

Morning news and notes for Feb. 14, 2023

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Guardians Photo by George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Love it or hate it, the free runner on second base in extra innings is here to stay — at least in the regular season.

It’s one of many rules changes going into the league this year, but it’s the only one that we’ve seen at the major-league level so far. Along with the “ghost runner” (or whatever you want to call it), MLB will also be restricting shifts, increasing base sizes, limiting the number of pickoff attempts, and installing a pitch clock.

Another new rule, that as far as I know wasn’t previously discussed, is that there are now restrictions on when a team can use position players to pitch. Under the new rules, a team must be leading by at least 10 or trailing by at least eight before they are allowed to use a non-pitcher on the mound. From ESPN’s article on the new rule changes:

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, there were 132 instances of position players pitching in 2022, up from 32 five years ago. Players had concerns, as statistics were beginning to be dramatically affected by so many position players pitching.

The novelty of a position player pitching is fun when it happens once in a while. Less so when it seems to happen every week and teams completely throw away their chance of a comeback with a six-run deficit.

Maybe I’m just a shill now, but personally, I’m a fan of basically every one of these new rules.

First off, the ghost runner has grown on me, at least in regular-season games. Games should be long and dramatic if they need to be in the postseason — as we saw in the Guardians’ AL Wild Card-clinching 18-inning over Tampa Bay last year. But I’m fine without multiple 13+ inning games in the middle of July.

I’ve seen a lot of people comment on how the pitch clock won’t reduce the overall game time all that dramatically (they cut minor-league games by around 25 minutes), but it’s the tempo that will make a huge difference. Even if it only shaves three or four seconds between each pitch, that’s going to make the game feel so much snappier. As we’ve already seen with the game speed since PitchCom’s implementation, every little second helps. Frankly, a pitch clock seems way overdue if we’re being perfectly honest.

Bigger bases are a no-brainer. Teams have figured out that stealing just isn’t worth it most of the time, so MLB is incentivizing them to try. I can understand disagreeing with most rules, but actually caring a great deal about the size of the base seems like hating a new rule for hating’s sake. Stealing is fun, this should hopefully increase the frequency of them. Win/win.

Sort of the same thing with shifting — teams have figured out the optimal strategy with it and it doesn’t lead to the most entertaining baseball. So, in turn, MLB is evolving it. I think there was a path that MLB — and its broadcasters, in particular — could have taken that made defense alignment discussion as integral to the game as it is in the NFL, but that ship has probably sailed. No one seemed interested in trying between some simple graphics. If you’re not going to make it part of the game, then just get rid of (or in this case limit) it.

And finally, maybe my hottest take in this news and notes intro, which has admittedly gotten way away from me, is that little seeing-eye singles that squeak through the infield with runners on base are more exciting than most home runs. So do whatever gets more of those, please.

Cleveland Guardians news

A Further Look at the Guardians/Reds Will Benson/Justin Boyd Trade | Next Year in Cleveland
More context for last week’s Will Benson trade from the always great Justin Lada at Next Year in Cleveland.

Cleveland once again preferred more of a contact oriented option while finding a way to clear a 40 man roster spot of a player who likely would have been stashed in Triple-A for them, while getting a player back they seem to like.

Effectively Wild Episode 1968: Season Preview Series: Guardians and Rangers | FanGraphs
Just saw this while I was putting together the news and notes, so I haven’t listened yet, but the FanGraphs season previews are always good so this is a blind recommendation. The Guardians preview portion, which includes an interview with Mandy Bell, starts at around the 35-minute mark.

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