In this experimental season, already featuring seven-inning doubleheader games and National League DHs, it seems the change to MLB's extra-innings format has caused more of a stir than any other alteration.
Extra innings (or the 8th inning of a doubleheader game) now begin with a runner on second base and no outs. It's simple, manufactured drama. But do you like it? Should it stick around beyond the 2020 season? SI's MLB staff weighs in.
The extra-inning rule is perfect for this season: designed to end games quickly during a pandemic. The fact that it will not be used in the postseason tells you it should not stick around.
I like the rule this year because it creates strategic decisions, which is always good, especially at a time when the universal DH continues baseball’s slide into dumbing down the game. But in normal times, extra-inning games come along so infrequently that the gimmick of placing a runner out there is not worth it. A good idea should be a good idea in the regular season and postseason–not create two versions of the game.
It’s fine for this season, because it’s important for players and staff to spend as little time at the ballpark as possible, but let’s end it as soon as the sport is safe and healthy again. When people complain about how long games are, they aren’t talking about extra innings, which are necessarily the closest and highest-leverage and therefore most exciting frames. We don’t need to speed up extra innings. We need to speed up innings one through nine.
A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have expected to say this, but the format has grown on me. I wasn't a huge fan of the idea when it was originally announced for the World Baseball Classic (or then for minor-league ball and indy ball), and after the first few looks at it in MLB, I wasn't crazy about it there, either. But after the first week... it's clear that you're getting more than an endless stream of sac bunts, it does add a fun little wrinkle with some new strategy, and even if it doesn't make extras that much faster, it at least can make them a little more interesting. I don't mind it at all for the weirdness of this season, and if it sticks around for the future, I'm fine with that, too.
This new format creates instant drama in extra innings, and when have you ever used the phrase instant drama in a conversation about baseball? It's fun and fitting for this science experiment of a season, and while I'm happy to see it leave during the postseason, I hope it returns in the regular season going forward.
I've already written about my unexpected love affair with the new extra-innings rule. For the most part, I don't like messing with baseball's structure, which is why I was pleasantly surprised that I found the new extra-innings format so thrilling.
The rule reminds me of college football overtime, when the game clock is turned off and each team begins each round of overtime from the opposing 25-yard line. It is the far superior football OT format because time does not determine the outcome, which is what baseball purists love most about our game anyway.
At first I was skeptical, but no longer do I have cold feet. I want this new extra-innings rule in my life forever.
Like many, I sneered at MLB's extra-innings rule before the 2020 season. I'm happy to admit I was completely wrong.
Not only is the new format acceptable, it's downright thrilling. The strategic elements are fascinating, and there's still little guarantee of a run scoring given this strikeout-happy era. The 2020 season has been largely disastrous, but let's add a dose of positivity. Extra innings is a rare positive development for MLB, and the format should stay for years to come.