8/14: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

A night after the Curve and Senators exploded for 23 runs on 33 hits, the two teams combined for zero runs through Wednesday night’s first nine frames. Onto the tenth, we went, and with it, Altoona’s Chris Sharpe was placed on second base to start the top half of the inning.

It’s a rule that has been in place since the beginning of the 2018 season for the minor leagues. Although previously used in international competition, purists decried the implementation of the rule last year amid a flurry of changes Major League Baseball made as part of their initiative to speed up the pace of play.

Count Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy as someone who isn’t a fan after almost two full seasons of playing under the new rules.

“I don’t like it to be honest,” LeCroy said. “I like the old way. I think there are other ways to change it maybe, but I’d rather it just be the way it was.”

Trust me. I understand that way of thinking. But observationally I also think it has actually shortened the games.

Wednesday’s game was Harrisburg’s 11th extra-inning affair this season. Eight times a winner has been decided after only one extra frame, and the most they’ve had to play is 12 way back in mid-April.

Looking at complete minor league data comparing the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the results tell a similar story.

In 2018, games ended after only one extra inning 73 percent of the time. That’s an increase of 24 percent over 2017’s numbers. An average of 15 minutes per game was saved per contest that went into extras.

But why should I care about the time? I don’t. The more baseball, the better. But another argument can be made that its best outcome is preserving the young arms on any staff.

After the rule change, only 18 games across the entire minor leagues went more than three extra innings. Compare that to 2017 when a whopping 162 games went longer than that. Would you believe the longest game in 2017 went an extra 12 innings? Whereas the max a game went in 2018 was six extra frames.

For all the talk about the minor leagues being developmental, I don’t see any upside to a pitching staff having to man an extra 12 innings. That will easily wreck a bullpen for the next two weeks.

I got the uproar when this was announced. Old schoolers want to protect the sanctity of the game as it was and always has been. But there have always been tweaks to the rules of the game whether it’s something big like the designated hitter, or something much smaller like the mound height.

I’ve come around on the rule…until they try to enact it at the Major League level and then we’re back to rioting in the streets.

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