To save baseball,it must be ruined

The way the big shots in baseball are trying to speed up the game, you’d think that people were forced at gunpoint to watch it.

True, baseball may be a game that time and smartphones have passed by. To watch a baseball game requires patience, and — gasp — conversation with the person you subjected to the spectacle.

Now, officials are taking aim at the problem of games that go beyond nine innings, in a bid to placate fans who have to get up to work the next morning, but who apparently are unaware that you can get up and leave anytime you want.

The solution is that baseball may start the extra innings with a runner on second. It’ll be tested out in the low minor leagues first but the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston reported this week that it’s a sure bet to happen at the Major League level.

Attention spans resemble those of puppies these days. If many people don’t have the time to read a book or a newspaper, they don’t have time watch a baseball game decided by four runs for over four hours.

The Designated Runner (DR) or whatever they’re going to call him, is a shiny object for some fans’ debatable powers of concentration, which offers the possibility of a quick outcome.

But it strips away the layers upon layers of accumulated tension that makes baseball special.

The odds, of course, are that a team is more likely to score a run if it starts with a runner on second. The sooner that happens, the sooner fans — that’s an odd word for anyone who would watch the travesty — can go home and browse Twitter.

But Kevin Knudson, who writes mathy things for Forbes, points out what the baseball execs miss: the odds of both teams scoring a run increases, leaving the likelihood that the game would be extended.

So what’s the probability that a game ends after 10 innings under the new scheme? Now the probabilities of the first two scenarios are both 0.633 × 0.367 = 0.232311. As above, the probability of the third event is negligible and so we can expect a 46.46% chance a game will end after 10 innings. Let’s round that up to 50% just to be safe.

To sum up: this rather drastic rule change, one that flies in the face of 150 years of tradition, will give MLB about a 6% increase in the likelihood of ending a game after 10 innings. Similar analysis tells us that we can expect about 75% of games to end in no more than 11 innings while the current rate is about 69%. Doesn’t seem worth it, does it?

If baseball wanted to speed up the game, he says, it could shorten the time between innings — less TV commercial time — and stop allowing hitters to step out of the box between innings.

The league could also stop with the practice of suspending games because it might rain in a few minutes.

Locally, the Twins could solve the problem by putting better squads on the field so fans wouldn’t care so much how long the game is going.

Like that’s going to happen.

(h/t: Tom Weber)

  • Al


  • Matt Black

    The American Association, the league the Saints are in, did this in 2015 and scrapped it at the end of the season. That rule had the 10th inning played normally but the extra runner added on 2nd in the 11th. It was awful. I don’t think there was a team in the league that didn’t complain about it and I’m glad they got rid of it after just a year.

  • Scott Bush

    This was previously known as part of International Rules and has been tried in Independent minor league baseball off and on for years. The end result is often the tedium that MLB seems to believe fans would prefer to avoid. The lead off hitter will most likely bunt, moving the runner to 3rd. The next batter will then be intentionally walked to set up a double play possibility. These actions make the first two plate appearances last longer than they otherwise would, extending the length of the game. No surprise that MLB seems to be oblivious that others in the game may have tried this in the past.

  • MikeB

    It’s valid to look at the pace of play but the obvious solutions cut into $. This may be a trial balloon to lead to other ideas, but this plan won’t reach the majors.

  • ec99

    “and stop allowing hitters to step out of the box between innings [pitches?].”

    I thought that was instituted at one time, in response to people like Chuck Knoblach who readjusted his gloves after every pitch.

  • I’m not a huge baseball fan and even *I* recognize that this is a ridiculous rule change.

    And don’t get me started about “shootouts” in soccer…

    /Shootouts in hockey aren’t THAT bad…they don’t use them in the playoffs so…

    • ec99

      Have to agree on the soccer. When the World Cup final, after 90 minutes of play, plus added time, plus overtime, boils down to goalies having to guess which way to dive, it’s pretty pathetic.

      • wjc

        I despise shootouts, but they affect a very small percentage of football games. League games in all pro leagues can end in draws. Only cup competitions require non-draw results and the penalty shootout has become the unpopular way to reach a result. The other possible solutions would be equally unpopular.

        • ec99

          But they have occurred in World Cup finals. There is something wrong when the game of that magnitude is decided by point-blank shots at the goalie.

          • wjc

            I agree, but what are the alternatives that don’t potentially have either a similarly random outcome, or have equally unpalatable consequences, like increased injury risks for exhausted players.

          • ec99

            A coin flip? Just kidding. How about corner kicks, where all the players are on the field and set plays come in? It’s about the most exciting part of the game anyway.

          • wjc

            Most exciting part: not really. So the team with the taller players who can jump higher would have the best chance. When does the play end, so the next one can be taken?

          • ec99

            All teams practice corner kicks. It’s an integral part of the game. Each team gets a chance. After the first set, the first team to score wins.

          • wjc

            I’m not clear on how these corners would be taken alternately, and when the play would be over unsuccessfully. It doesn’t really matter though. FIFA / UEFA / FA has established penalties as the tie-breaker, and that’s not going to change any time soon. In the FA Cup in England, a draw results in a replay at the visitor’s field. Penalties only come into play at the end of the 2nd match. Maybe they should have a replay of drawn games 2 days later in the World Cup.

          • BJ

            Don’t give them any ideas…. How much extra TV money they could get if a game was a draw and they did a replay…

  • Rob

    !forehead slap! If the Most Loopy Baseball dudes are gonna implement this whack concept, why are they settling for second base as the place to start a runner? What’s wrong with third base?

    As to needing nine innings to develop //layers upon layers of accumulated tension//, that sounds like marketing doublespeak to me. There’d still be plenty of tension in a two-hour game with six or seven innings, IMHO.

    • Why not just have a player from each team do that spinning thing where they put their heads on a bat and spin around, and then have to run to firstbase, hopefully without falling down from being so dizzy.

      • wjc

        Do steroids make players less dizzy?

      • Rob


      • Zachary

        Why not also have the mascot race used as the deciding factor?

  • wjc

    I used to love watching baseball, but the pace of play has gotten to me. While this proposed change is really horrible, 3 1/2 hour baseball games are crazy too.

    How much have between inning TV breaks changed over the years? Given that there are at least 16 of those in every game, that might account for how ridiculously long games have gotten.

  • Jeff

    Who says there’s no crying about baseball?

  • Zachary

    What if: (and bear with me on this – this may get complicated) you change up the extra innings format to be like this –
    Each player on the batting team has a chance to bat – trying to score as many runs as they can. Only base hits and home runs count. Outs are by fly-outs and tag outs only. Once a player is “out” they are “out” and cannot bat again. During this time the fielding team alternates pitchers so that no pitcher throws more than, say, 10 pitches. Once they have thrown that many, their turn is “over”.
    When a manager on the batting team is out of eligible batters (or decides they have enough runs) or the pitching team is out of eligible pitchers, then offensive and defensive positions switch.
    Team at with the higher score at the end of this extra “innings” is the game winner.
    Ohh – lets add a couple of balanced sticks behind home plate as well. If the pitcher hits it, it’s also an out.

    Or, if you really want to watch a game be played all day – we could go watch cricket.

    If you haven’t noticed, I am being snarky and sarcastic. I love baseball, and think most of this whole “let’s speed up the game” stuff is ridiculous. Play the game – if you must leave early – do so. Keep the players from monkeying around with their gear after every pitch. That’s the part that bugs me the most. Maybe something like a shot clock? Something I do love about cricket is that the game does keep moving. But that’s a different game altogether and nothing like baseball.

    • jon

      I was thinking we just eliminate second base, and third base entirely.

      You go from home to first, and back.

      Actually first is kind of far away…. maybe home to the pitcher’s mound, and forget about going back.

      • Zachary

        everybody just goes home? call it a draw and add that to the stats?

        • jon

          We give everyone a trophy and agree we are all winners.

          The game is played for as long as there is a crowd willing to watch (so probably not at all.)

          • Zachary

            except you’re gonna get that One Guy in the back, that will. Not. Go. Home. Ever…

    • Jeff

      I hate when they bring in relief pitcher after relief pitcher. I’m not sure what would be a good rule but limit the number entered into the game or something.

      • Zachary

        a friend of mine once suggested you shorten the game to 7 innings, and limit the pitchers to 3. Starter, Set-Up, Closer.

        • Jeff

          Back in the day that was about it and complete games were not science fiction.

          • Zachary

            there are some crazy stats from that era of the game. it’s fun to browse through and go “wow, that doesn’t happen anymore”.

        • Ugh. People can shorten the game to 7 innings by leaving.

          • tboom

            Or coming in the 3rd.

    • X.A. Smith

      changing pitchers after every ten pitches would erase any time savings.

  • Tim

    What if they just allowed tie games for anything before the postseason? Yeah, it would affect statistics, scoring, and all that, but it’s not like it would be unprecedented.

  • Zachary

    I wonder if the question that needs to be asked is: What are People looking for in a sport? Is it a fast game? A Tactical game? A Mental game? An Athletic game?
    Or does it dive into the realm of: Is it a Lucrative game? Is it able to be Monetized? Can you attach a “brand” to a team or a player?

    Why do some sports do well in a TV environment in some places, but not others? See Association Football (soccer) in the US vs The World. Soccer popularity is increasing in the USA, but TV coverage is staying the same. Same with Cricket – it’s big in the world, and but it’s popularity here is limited. Why? Arguably, it’s faster than Baseball, and more strategic than American Football, so why don’t more people watch it?

    There are plenty of games that match into my first set of categories that don’t rate the same popularity as sports that match fewer ones; Arena Football, Handball, Volleyball, Lacrosse, Rugby. All far “superior” (in my categories of speed, athleticism, and tactics) than, say, Basketball or American Football or Professional Bull Riding.

    What makes a sport popular? If baseball is losing on the popularity front, why? I think it’s a great game, but what is replacing it? I think there are some sports fans that will watch just about anything that’s “SPORTS” without getting invested in what they are watching.

    Maybe I’m just spinning my wheels here and rambling on, but it’s a slow day and this has me excited for baseball season. Sorry Bob.

  • Bob Sinclair

    So, is MLB getting tips from Gary Bettman and the NHL owners? Look at all of the tweaking they’ve (the NHL) have done in the last 10-15 years trying to raise scoring levels. And please don’t get me started on the “loser point” or the shootout. Is this a better product? I don’t think so. But then I’m a neanderthal when it comes to change

  • Every replay review takes 10 minutes. We can save a lot of time by making that faster.

    Also, I saw this on Twitter: What would this do to perfect games?

    • Zachary

      from MLB:

      Edit: (Submitted before I finished the thought) I think since the definition of a perfect game is one where there are no base runners at all, a “freebie” in extra would eliminate any chance of extra inning perfect games. They might have a no-hitter loss however.

      • I think your interpretation is right. Which sucks. Can you imagine if Kershaw threw 9 perfect innings but didn’t get a “perfect game” because it went to extras?

        • Zachary

          If he had to throw extras and missed a perfect game, it meant his team wasn’t backing him up on offense. Sure it sucks, and nobody remembers the rest of the team after a perfect game, but you need the support around you.

          • Somewhere Harvey Haddix is nodding right now.

          • Zachary

            I had to look him up, which dropped me down the wiki wormhole of “Near Perfect Games”. Quite a list of ones broken up by fielding errors. Truly, it’s a team accomplishment. But nobody remembers them.

          • “Official scorers” tend to be generous with “errors” when a guy has a no-hitter going.

          • Zachary

            like they will give the error to the fielder to keep it from being a hit? I wonder if there is a stat for that? “No-Hitter Goat Leader”?

          • While the pitcher does get all the glory, it’s not uncommon to see pitchers buy nice things for their teammates after throwing a no-hitter or perfect game. A nice watch or something similar.

  • Mike Worcester

    Concur with Bob and so many others that the game duration issues can be solved by so many other simple solutions than messing with how extra innings are played. To think that at one time, a regular game started at 7:35 local time and was nearly always done by 9:45. Now even a 7:10 start does not guarantee a 10:00 p.m. finish — for nine innings. :/

  • Postal Customer

    Enforce the time between pitches rule. Ten seconds max. First violation (per inning), a warning. Second violation, batter takes first base. Third violation, pitcher ejected.

    You don’t need a rule for batters leaving the box. Pitches are coming whether you’re in the box or getting a beer. Be ready to swing the bat!

    Next, relief pitchers don’t need to warm up on the mound. They’re already warm. Take the mound and immediately resume the damn game. It follows, then, that you don’t need a commercial break to change pitchers. They RUN to the mound and start throwing pitches. Ten-second rule applies after taking the mound.

    There. I just significantly sped up the game without weird and major changes to extra-inning rules.

    • The warm up mound and actual pitcher’s may be different thus throwing off the incoming pitcher (no pun intended).

      • Zachary

        So you allow for a maximum number of warm-up / gettoknowyou pitches. Say, 4 or 5.

    • D.Robot

      Why not also mandate that runners stay in contact with the base until the ball is hit? The cat and mouse game that goes on between base runners and the pitcher is something I really don’t care for.