Major League Baseball's extra-innings tiebreaker rule, in which a runner is automatically placed at second base to begin each extra inning, is now permanent, reports ESPN. MLB's joint competition committee has voted unanimously to make the rule permanent for the regular season and regular season only. Postseason games will continue to feature "regular" play in extra innings.
MLB first used the extra-innings tiebreaker rule during the 60-game pandemic season in 2020 as a way to shorten games and reduce injury risk after the unusual spring training shutdown and midsummer build-up period for pitchers. The rule remained on a temporary basis in 2021 and 2022, and now it has been made permanent.
Approximately 10 percent of regular season games go to extra innings, historically. Last year 223 of 2,430 regular season games went to extra innings, or 9.2 percent. With the extra-innings tiebreaker rule, only seven games have gone as long as 13 innings the last three seasons. There were 37 13-inning games in 2019 alone, the last year with "normal" extra-inning rules.
The longest game with the extra-innings tiebreaker rule is a 16-inning affair between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers last Aug. 25. On Aug. 9, the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners played a 13-inning game in which the Yankees sent only seven batters to the plate in a three-inning span because the automatic runner kept making baserunning mistakes and running into outs.
The automatic runner placed at second base in extra innings does not count as an earned run for the pitcher. The runner gets credit for a run scored but not a time on base, and thus does not receive a boost to his on-base percentage. The batter who drives in the automatic runner is credited with an RBI.
MLB's 11-person joint competition committee includes six team representatives, four player representatives, and one umpire representative. Given the makeup of the committee, MLB can jam through any rule change proposals it wants, though the extra-innings tiebreaker was approved unanimously. People within game clearly like the rule more than most fans.
A version of the extra-innings tiebreaker rule has been used by the International Baseball Federation, the governing body for Olympic and international baseball competition, for decades.