Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Major League Baseball will test new extra-innings rules in rookie ball this season. One of those rules includes starting extra innings with a runner on second base. That rule is already implemented in the World Baseball Classic, but starting with the 11th inning, as the Chicago Tribune reported.
MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre is in favor of the experimentation. “Let’s just see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time,” Torre said. He continued, “It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”
The proposed change would have some tangible benefits, such as shortening games, reducing the stress of travel after those long games, and limiting abuse of pitchers’ arms.
The minor leagues have been Major League Baseball’s laboratory for rule changes because those alterations don’t need union approval… because there is no union. Both the owners and the players’ union would have to come to an agreement to adopt this proposed extra-innings rule at the major league level, so it seems unlikely that would happen in the very near future.
There were 189 extra-inning games last season out of 2,430 games played, or 7.6 percent. Of those 189 games, 75 lasted 10 innings (40%), 50 lasted 11 innings (26%), 31 lasted 12 innings (16%), 19 lasted 13 innings (10%), and 14 lasted 14 innings or longer (7%). 26 players who are typically position players pitched last season, and only two of those players were brought in during extra innings: Darwin Barney (19th inning on July 1) and Ryan Goins (18th inning also on July 1).
It seems, based on this data, that long extra-innings games — even those involving position players pitching — aren’t really that big of an issue. That being said, reducing the length and amount of extra-inning games in the minors could be very helpful because it will help preserve many young, developing arms and potentially avoid otherwise unnecessary injuries.