MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has time and again prioritized speeding up the pace of games and, by extension, shortening those same games. To that end comes a radical idea with regard to games that go into extra innings. Here's the scoop from Yahoo's Jeff Passan:
Major League Baseball plans on testing a rule change in the lowest levels of the minor leagues this season that automatically would place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings, a distinct break from the game's orthodoxy that nonetheless has wide-ranging support at the highest levels of the league, sources familiar with the plan told Yahoo Sports.
Specifically, MLB will try out this system -- i.e., putting a runner in scoring position to start every extra frame -- in rookie ball this season. It's similar to what's already in place for the World Baseball Classic since 2009. Here's the WBC rule for games that go beyond the 11th inning:
For any inning beginning with the 11th inning, the Federation Team at bat shall begin the inning with runners on first and second base. The batter who leads off an inning shall continue to be the batter who would lead off the inning in the absence of this extra-innings rule. The runner on first base shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding the batter who leads off the inning. The runner on second base shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding the runner on first base.
So this is less radical than what's in place for the WBC but still a drastic departure from the current structure.
To put it in perspective, according to basic run expectancy starting the inning with no runners on base and no outs gives the batting team a 25.9 percent chance of scoring one or more runs. With a runner on second and no outs, which is how each extra frame would begin under this proposed system, the batting team has a 61.7 percent chance of scoring one or more runs. That's a huge difference to say the least.
Obviously, this is going to be a hugely controversial idea among fans, and arguably it's addressing an issue that really isn't all that much of a concern in the larger scheme. Needless to say, though, players and managers would almost unanimously be in favor of all but eliminating that games that span 17, 18, 19 innings or so.