Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is on a mission to shorten games and improve pace of play, and Minor League Baseball has been a testing ground for him.
First we installed the pitch clocks, and they worked very well to quicken games – until the umpires stopped enforcing the rules in 2017.
Now we have a new rule for 2018: if a game reaches extra innings, a runner will be placed at second base to start the inning. The runner will be the final batter from the previous inning.
This rule has recently been added in international competition, including last year’s World Baseball Classic.
The initial response to the rule change via social media was overwhelmingly negative. It absolutely infuriates baseball traditionalists; we’re changing a 125-year-old rule here.
There are reasons that it makes sense in the minor leagues.
For one, the player development people with the teams love it. They don’t want to tire out relief pitching prospects with over-worked minor league bullpens, or risk injury when a position player comes in to pitch in the 12th inning.
In recent years, longer extra inning games in the PCL have been decided when teams bring a position player (usually the utility infielder) in to pitch. This typically happens if we reach the 12th or 13th inning.
For purposes of competition, is it better to have a game decided by which team’s utility infielder can walk fewer batters, or by starting innings with a runner at second base and a real pitcher on the mound?
Personally, my biggest concern with the runner at second base rule is that the extra innings strategy will get boring. Bunt the runner to third, intentional walks to set up force outs – essentially, the extra innings will all begin with the bases loaded and one out. Especially the bottom of the extra innings, if the game is still tied.
The new rule puts an end to the marathons. It’s hard to image a game reaching even the 12th inning with a runner at second base to start each frame. The 100-or-so of us who were still in the ballpark at 12:45 AM for the conclusion of the Scott Savastano Game will never see anything like that again.
Will we miss the marathons? I suspect not. It seems that once 11 pm rolls around the ballpark empties out, and when we are still playing at midnight it’s in front of 100-200 diehards. Most people have to go to bed sometime.
One suggestion that was not addressed in the rule change announcement: are we doing this in the playoffs, too? I hope not.
There were additional changes made in regards to pitch clock settings, including limiting pitchers to 15 seconds between offerings when there is nobody on base.
This will only happen if the umpires enforce the pitch clock rules. We’ll find out in April if the umpires are actually going to make the players do this.
Also, we’ll be counting mound visits just like in the majors: six per game, for each team, with a few exceptions.
Here’s the official announcement with the details of the new pace-of-play regulations.
The Rockies beat the Mariners on Tuesday, 8-7. Rob Whalen continued his excellent spring, pitching five innings and allowing one run while striking out nine batters. Gordon Beckham had two of the Mariners 14 hits; he’s hitting .400 in the Cactus League.
Yesterday Mike Marjama homered to help the M’s defeat the Giants, 5-4. Taylor Motter had three hits, and Christian Bergman pitched 2.1 innings.
Big weekend at the ballpark: the first S2 game is Friday, and a good crowd is expected. Then the Rainiers annual Preseason Party is Saturday at Cheney Stadium, starting at 2:30. Come on out!
- The News Tribune has an easy-to-understand write-up of the new minor league rules.
- Here’s the latest medical report on the Mariners walking wounded.
- Manager Scott Servais remains upbeat despite the slew of minor injuries.
- The Mariners commercials are here! The Mariners commercials are here!
- It’s March Madness, and TJ Cotterill checks in with all of the local players who are in the tournament.