With the MLB announcing that they plan on experimenting with the international tiebreaker rule in the rookie Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues this season, there has been a lot of talk about how this will impact professional baseball.
“Let’s see what it looks like,” MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre told the website (Yahoo! Sports). “It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.
“It’s baseball. I’m just trying to get back to that, where this is the game that people come to watch. It doesn’t mean you’re going to score. You’re just trying to play baseball.”
What’s sometimes known as the international tiebreaker rule has been used in variations in the Australian Baseball League, the World Baseball Classic and the World Baseball Softball Confederation, which governed Olympic competition. A potential format is to have the batter who made the final out in the previous inning be placed at second base to start the next inning.
Each GCL team is scheduled to play 56 or 60 games — depending on its division — and there were 46 extra-inning contests last year. In the AZL, where teams play 56 games, there were 29 contests that went to extra innings.
“What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves,” Torre told Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t know what inning is the right inning — maybe the 11th or 12th inning. But there are a number of reasons.”
In 2014, the Arizona Fall League implemented a pitch clock, a rule that was implemented the following season in across Triple-A and Double-A. The proposed extra innings rule could follow that example if it proves successful in Rookie ball.
This rule has already been in place throughout independent baseball. The Can-Am League adopted the rule for the 2014 season. In 2015, the American Association (ran by the Can-Am League’s commissioner, Miles Wolff ) and the Frontier League followed.
The Can-Am League believes that the rule has done good things for their game. In a press release sent out today, Wolff comments on how games have gone since the implementation of the rule.
WBC, AFFILIATED LEAGUES TO ADOPT 11TH-INNING RULE
Can-Am League to enter fourth season with tiebreaker format in 2017
Major League Baseball recently announced the implementation of the 11th-inning tiebreaker rule to be used in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, as well as during the 2017 Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Arizona League seasons. The rule states that all innings beyond the tenth begin with a runner on second base.
The rule has been used in the Can-Am League since the 2014 season, and as part of International Baseball Federation competition since the 2008 Olympic Games.
“With the Can-Am League’s increasing international flavor, including regular-season games against teams from Cuba and Japan, the 11th-inning rule has brought our league in line with other international competitions over the past three seasons. We’re looking forward to seeing the rule in place at the WBC, one of the game’s largest showcases, as well as in affiliated minor leagues this year,” league Commissioner Miles Wolff commented.
Specifically, beginning in the 11th inning, the player in the batting order immediately preceding that inning’s leadoff hitter is placed on second base. The inning otherwise proceeds as usual, with each team getting a turn at bat. In the WBC, which begins March 7, an additional runner will also be placed on first base to begin the inning.
Should the player(s) starting the inning on base eventually score, it counts in statistics as a run for the player and an RBI for the batter who drove him in (if applicable), but does not count towards the pitcher’s earned-run average.
In the Can-Am League, the rule has been effective in both limiting wear and tear on pitching staffs and reducing the length of extra-inning games. Since 2014, 87% of the league’s extra-inning games have not extended beyond the 11th inning.
Although the Can-Am League has found success using the rule, the American Association stopped using it after just one season. In addition, the Atlantic League rejected it as a pace of play rule in 2015 stating that they:
Do not recommend due to a) it is unlikely that a similar rule will be adopted by MLB; b) regardless of a (tie-breaker) feature which would not charge a run to the pitcher, it still results in a loss for the pitcher; c) ALPB Clubs have adequate pitching depth on rosters to deal with extra inning games; d) fundamentally changes the game of baseball
As someone who has seen this rule play out many times over the last few years, I can honestly say that it doesn’t truly make a difference to me. I love baseball, and I can appreciate a game that takes all night long, as well as appreciate the strategy that goes into moving runners and essentially playing “small ball” in extra innings.
Even though the Can-Am League states that 87% of their extra inning games end after the 11th inning now that the rule is in place, games can still drag on since a runner starting at second just makes it easier to score for both teams. I’ve personally been to a Frontier League game where each team just kept scoring to go further into extra innings.
Will this be the start of big changes throughout the affiliated minors and the MLB? Only time (and the pace of games) will tell…