Major League Baseball’s next experiment starts Tuesday at Target Field when the Minnesota Twins host the Houston Astros. It’s the first game in the new postseason format which dragged several unqualified teams into a 16-team tournament. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorite. The Milwaukee Brewers, who qualified despite never having a winning record this year, are not.
One thing not joining them is the extra-inning rule instituted this season as a supposed time-saver. Both teams started the 10th inning with a runner on second base. The rule received poor reviews from players and coaches among the Nationals. It will be gone for the postseason, and, hopefully, for good.
The Nationals played 10 extra-inning games in 2019 (6.2 percent). Of those only four made it beyond the 10th inning. Only one made it past the 11th inning.
This year, the Nationals played four extra-inning games (6.7 percent). Of those, three were decided in 10 innings. One went to the 12th inning.
So, the rule changed nothing.
It did undermine the basic premise of the game by giving away 180 feet to a runner. For nine innings, every pitch, shift and defensive play is executed in the pursuit of preventing a runner from advancing 90 feet. Then, suddenly, this rule granted two free bases.
It also led to bizarre outcomes, such as Sean Doolittle suffering a walk-off loss in a game he didn’t allow a hit. A bunt to advance the runner was followed by two intentional walks on Sept. 3 in Philadelphia. Alec Bohm’s sacrifice fly scored the runner. Game over.
“That rule stinks,” Doolittle said. “There’s a hope that these rule changes don’t set a precedent moving forward, either. That MLB didn’t use the season to change the landscape and overhaul some things -- like the playoff structure.”
The extra-inning rule was designed to save time by producing less baseball overall. It did not. Though, Nationals games took significantly longer in 2020. If the league wants to help speed up the games, addressing actual problems instead of creating a hokey rule would help.