The 2020 season brought unprecedented rule changes, one of the most puzzling among them being the “extra inning runner.” Ostensibly in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and speed up play, commissioner Rob Manfred decreed that once a game progresses past the ninth inning, a runner would be placed at second base to begin the frame.
Manfred’s blatantly obvious motives turned baseball fans — a demographic notorious for their acceptance of changes to the national pastime — against it. If there is any defense to be made for the addition of the extraneous runner, it’s that shorter games helped save pitchers’ arms in what’s already been an utterly brutal season for pitcher injuries.
This seismic rule change also created a correspondingly large shift in how teams strategized after a game surpassed nine innings. Teams, even the more sabermetrically inclined among them, began to employ traditional tactics. In order to determine how clubs played with a free runner, I charted every extra inning of the 2020 season. Read the rest of this entry »