EXTRA INNINGS IN THE MINORS

July 31, 2018
By: Doug Heater

There were a few rule changes this 2018 season in the minors, all too speed up the game. The one that grabbed the most attention during spring training, and has had the biggest impact has been the one in which a baserunner is placed on 2nd base at the top of the 10th inning. With the IronPigs playing 8 extra inning games in July, including 6 straight at home, 5 of those wins, I have had a chance to fully embrace the new rule.

    Most people around the game, including first year IronPigs manager Gary Jones, do not like the rule. Jonesy said, “it just doesn’t feel right, starting a runner at second base”. My take on this new rule comes on the complete other side of this argument. 

First, it’s primary goal was to save pitchers arms, with the minors not having the liberty of calling up an additional reliever, if the game goes deep, say 15 or 16 innings, this new rule has accomplished that. 

    The misconception is that it was put in place to end the game sooner, to not prolong a game over 3 ½ hours. This was not it’s main purpose. Let’s be honest, the emphasis to win at all costs in the minors, is just not what baseball at the lower levels is all about. Never will a manager put at risk a player’s development or future, to win a game at the minor league level. It’s always about development, and if winning the game comes along with that, then so be it. 

    Let’s look at what I believe to be the true positives to this rule. First, from the development standpoint, it puts the relief pitcher immediately into a high stress situation, with a runner already on second base. For those that plan on making it the big leagues, what better way to get you prepared to enter a game with a runner already in scoring position, and then see what the pitcher does to get out of the inning unscored upon. 

    From the offensive side of things, it immediately intensifies what each hitter must to situationally, to move the runner from second, or potentially score him from there or third base. Since moving runners is done so infrequently at the minor league level during the game, at least we get to see what these young hitters can do, when called upon in a tie game, with a potential win on the line. 

    Now from the perspective of the dugout experience. I have been in the Pigs dugout during each one of the extra inning games during the month of July, the atmosphere has been electric. Much more intense and dramatic than any of the extra inning games played at Coca-Cola Park in the past. I’m still not sure where all the criticisim is coming from, especially now that we have experienced such drama and excitement, but at least for me, it has been a welcome change, and one I have been very glad I have been around this season.