Ten Theses Against the Manfred Rule

All three of the Twins’ losses this season have come in extra innings played under the Manfred rule — a runner is magically placed on second to start every extra half-inning. With that disgruntlement in mind, here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons the Manfred rule is arbitrary, illogical, and poorly implemented:

  1. MLB uses the rule in regular season games, but won’t in the postseason. Why? This seems like a tacit acknowledgment that it’s arbitrary and is primarily intended to artificially shorten games, rather than determine which team won under the actual rules of baseball.
  2. Theoretically, a pitcher could lose a perfect game under this rule while recording an out against the first batter of the bottom of the inning: the magical runner could advance to third on a passed ball and score on a caught foul fly ball. This is illogical and would be even worse than what happened to poor Harvey Haddix.
  3. The batter who made (or hit into) the last out of the previous inning can score the winning run of the next without a plate appearance in that inning. This is illogical and violates the basic principles of the game.
  4. When played under the Manfred rule, why should an extra-innings loss be weighted in the standings the same as a loss in a regulation game? Wins and losses in April or September count the same in the standings at the end of the season, but there’s no Bettman/loser points system like the NHL has to level out extra-inning losses decided by the Manfred rule. It’s just a straight L in the standings and against a club’s winning percentage.
  5. If the goal is to make extras more exciting” (I find this premise ridiculous, but okay), why do all innings start with a magical runner on second, instead of progressively ratcheting up the tension? Wouldn’t it be more exciting to start the tenth with nobody on, then a magical runner on first in the 11th, a magical runner on second in the 12th, and a magical runner on third in the 13th and thereafter?
  6. The Manfred rule messes with win probability & leverage statistics. Managers can, to a large degree, distribute their high-leverage innings to their best relievers within a regulation game. Under the Manfred rule, every extra inning becomes a high-leverage inning by default, and relievers deployed in them are penalized for situations that are completely artificial within the context of the regulation game’s rules. MLB decided the winning run would be unearned to insulate ERA, which is a pretty worthless gesture, but you can’t do that with leverage stats.
  7. The Manfred rule has differential disadvantages for both the home team and visiting teams. This is plainly illustrated using Win Expectancy for the 9th inning, which is effectively the same as any extra inning. The home team’s Win Expectancy is .328 when an opposing (or magical!) runner is on second with no outs in the top of the inning, compared to an even .500 with no runners on and no outs. If that magical runner scores and puts the visitors up a run, the home team’s Win Expectancy drops from .634 in the bottom of the inning (under the traditional rules, with no runners on and no outs) to just .437 with a (magical!) runner on second and no outs. However, the home team is gifted a significant unearned leverage advantage if the visiting team doesn’t score, far exceeding what it would have in any previous bottom of an extra inning: .807 Win Expectancy with the Manfred rule’s magical runner on second and no outs, compared to a .634 Win Expectancy with no runners on and no outs.
  8. If MLB really must be arbitrary, why not give the batting team the choice of starting with no runners and no outs, or a runner on second (the last batter of the previous inning) with one out?
  9. Continuing with the arbitrary rules, if the runner must be mandatory, why not let the fielding team select the hitting team’s runner at the beginning of each half-inning? Restrictions on not choosing the same player more than once could be reasonable.
  10. Any rule that rewards more bunting is a bad rule.

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