Among the new rules for the unique 2020 season is one that seeks to speed up extra-inning games. Will this be a good or bad thing for the Brewers?
A number of rules were put in place for the upcoming shortened 2020 Brewers season with the intent of reducing COVID-19 risk for players and staff. Many of them directly correlate to gameplay itself.
Of those rules, one of the most controversial to fans specifically relates to extra-inning games. It’s one that has been floated for a couple years and finally found its way into the rulebooks in this extraordinary season.
All extra-inning games will start with a runner on second base beginning in the 10th.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 24, 2020
While the rule is new to the uppermost level of Major League Baseball, it has actually been in use in the Minor Leagues since the 2018 season. Pace of play has been a focus for years for MLB rule-makers and reducing the length of extra-inning games certainly falls into that category.
So, did the rule change end up working? After two years of results, most would say that the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Fixed my calculations:
Games resolved after 1 extra inning in 2016-2017: 45 percent
Games resolved after 1 extra inning in 2018-2019 with the new extra-innings MiLB rule: 73 percent https://t.co/R6Uxg46qyp
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 23, 2020
First, let’s put this into context for last year’s Brewers. In 2019, Milwaukee played 15 extra-inning games, going 7-8. Of those games, eight of them were ended in the 10th inning.
Digging deeper into the record, it shows that the Brewers fared better the longer the games went. The team went just 3-5 in games which ended in the 10th inning but went 4-3 in the ones that went longer than that.
So, you would think that the Brewers would actually prefer that games last longer. However, looking at how the team is constructed, I think Brewer manager Craig Counsell could work relatively well with the new rule.
Extra Innings In 2020
The actual rule states that beginning with the 10th inning, the batting team will place a runner on second base to start their half of the inning. That player will be the one who made the final out in the previous inning, meaning teams can’t just bring out whomever they want.
But that doesn’t mean that Counsell won’t still have plenty of speedy options at his disposal. Likely regular starters such as Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Avisail Garcia, and Ryan Braun are excellent base runners and would start the team off in a great position if they were to begin the half inning on second base.
The Brewers have a number of utility players they could call off the bench in this situation as well. The very quick Ben Gamel would be the first option with players like Luis Urias, Eric Sogard, and Brock Holt being decent base runners as well. These players could immediately be used as pinch runners as their versatility would offer many different double switch opportunities.
Properly manipulating this rule will be important for Counsell and the Brewers. Sure, extra-inning games accounted for less than 10% of Milwaukee’s games last year and would translate to just five to six games in 2020. But those five to six games could make all the difference in a 60-game sprint to the finish.
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The runner on second rule is just one of many wrinkles that teams will have to navigate in such an unusual season. The ones who do that the best will put themselves in the best position to come out on top come this fall.