June 25, 2019

The forthcoming major league season will certainly be an odd one, not least due to the implementation of the minor league rule placing a runner on second base to start each extra half inning in extra innings. This rule is, in my opinion, one that is incompatible with the nature of the game. Not only is it part of the modern obsession with putting a clock (whether literal or, as in this case, metaphorical) on a game whose greatest asset is its timelessness, but it also makes possible what should be statistical impossibilities in baseball played as intended. Heck, a major league pitcher was on Twitter Tuesday night trying to figure out how this rule impacts ERA (Answer: It doesn’t. The runner at second is treated as though he reached on an error even though no fielder is charged with one.).*

A prime example of the zaniness that can ensue from this rule came exactly a year ago in Harrisburg, Through ten innings, the RubberDucks and the Senators (Washington Nationals) had both failed to score a run, even with the extra baserunner in the first extra frame. Both halves of the next inning produced an occurrences that could never have happened under normal rules.

The Mallards of Main Street broke the scoreless deadlock on the second pitch of the eleventh with a two-run leadoff homer from the bat of LF Ka’ai Tom. Yes, you read that right: a two-run leadoff homer. The scoring drought was over, but the oddities were not.

The ‘Ducks turned to closer Dalbert Siri to pick up the save. Despite allowing the leadoff hitter to reach on a single, he did so while facing the minimum thanks to a run-scoring double play. Let me repeat: Siri faced the minimum and gave up a run.

I hope you enjoyed this preview of what awaits us a month from now when the Big Club returns to the field.

*I tend not to be as swayed by the argument that it forces teams into a universal “bunt then sac fly” strategy. While it certainly impacts strategy, I have seen multiple strategies employed in minor league extras the last two seasons, so it’s hardly a matter of every extra half-inning being a cookie-cutter replica of every other one like it’s a 1970s ballpark. To be fair, my observations come from the affiliated minor league environment, where managerial decisions are dictated to a large extent by developmental concerns while major league managers are concerned solely with winning the game.


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