I’m not sure why MLB is so obsessed with roundabout fixes to their problems. (Edit: Actually, I do know the real reason and it’s $$$). Their latest fixation has been on the length of games. Though they worked on implementing enforcement of keeping hitters in the batter’s box and speeding up pitchers back in 2015, those changes were relaxed last year as they felt it was more important to only target the worst offenders. Hence, all progress that was made in shortening games in 2015 was lost in 2016.
Now MLB is worried about the length of extra-inning games and the supposed problem that teams can’t score. Toss in that teams sometimes run out of pitchers. In an attempt to alleviate those issues, MLB is going to have a runner start on second base at the beginning of each extra inning. The plan is for this to be tested in the low minors and theoretically could work its way up the ladder to MLB in future years (probably not the near future, however).
I think it’s pretty clear why this would I feel it would be a bad idea. First, it just feels unnatural, like the shootout in hockey. Second, people are already bored by bunting. A runner on second with nobody out is just begging for someone to overmanage and get that runner over to third base with less than two outs. Third, who starts on base? Is it the preceding hitter in the batting order? Can you choose who goes out there? That would have to be ironed out as well.
However, Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs had an idea that I liked far better: ending the game in a tie. Sawchik used to be a beat writer for the Pittsburgh Pirates (and wrote Big Data Baseball, which is a Moneyball-esque book on how the Pirates ended their playoff drought while operating with a small payroll) and mentioned that last year, the Pirates and Cubs actually did end a game in a tie. Granted, it was just a six inning game and there was a lengthy rain delay, but nonetheless both teams were sent home with no one declared as the winner.
American culture abhors the idea of ties and I fully understand that, but it was a commenter from Sawchik’s article that had perhaps the most brilliant idea of all (all typos sic).
If it’s a must-win game, the home team has the option of continuing the ballgame. If it’s a meaningless September game between two mediocre clubs or the home team recognizes burning through their entire bullpen isn’t worthwhile, their manager could simply end the game.
I will admit that ultimately, I would prefer that extra innings remain untouched. However, if extra innings were to be adjusted, the suggestion above is one that I would accept above anything else, because I find it simple and doesn’t impact the gameplay itself.
Do you have any suggestions that MLB could do to “fix” extra innings? Or do you agree with me that the best option is to leave it alone?