How MLB ended up with a new extra innings rule for the 2020 season


The rule has been referred to by many names over the past week: the Minor League rule, the runner-on-second-base-rule, the new extra-innings rule.

But in Little League, NCAA softball and various international tournaments, it’s most commonly known as the “international tiebreaker.”

MLB officially has a plan for the season, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that it includes the international tiebreaker. The idea is, with such a short season with a tight schedule, MLB wants to avoid games lasting 15 or more innings. For each half-inning after the ninth, the batting team will start with a runner on second to increase the likelihood of the team scoring.

“Playing in Double-A last year, the runner at second worked really well,” Nico Hoerner said on The Compound podcast in April. “We never went longer than 11 innings.”

Back in 2017, the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Puerto Rico and the Netherlands ended with a version of the international tiebreaker. Instead of adding a runner to second base in the 10th inning, as MLB plans to do, the World Baseball Classic introduced runners to first and second in the 11th.

“I thought it was a great end to the ballgame,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Los Angeles Times. “I really did. It was very exciting.”

Manfred didn’t go so far as to push the international tiebreaker on Major League Baseball, but in 2017, the rookie-level Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues began playing extra innings with a runner on second base. The rest of the minor leagues adopted the rule the next season.

Major League Baseball’s embrace of the international tiebreaker is only guaranteed for this season. As is the case with the universal designated hitter, which is also included in this season’s health and safety protocols, traditionalists will bemoan the addition of the rule.

But for a sport consumed with the question of how to speed up pace of play, the international tiebreaker could be an easy answer during the next CBA negotiations. That is, if the unofficial 2020 trial goes well.

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