Red Sox: David Price isn’t a fan of new extra-innings rule
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox starter David Price doesn’t seem fond of the new extra-innings rule being experimented with in the World Baseball Classic.
Baseball has long been a sport of traditionalists that can be reluctant to change. Count Boston Red Sox starter David Price among those who believe that sometimes changes can be taken too far.
At least that seems to be the case when it comes to his views on the Major League Baseball’s plans to experiment with starting extra-innings with a runner on second base. The concept will be introduced in the World Baseball Classic before being tested in the lower levels of the minor leagues this season.
The concept is intended to speed up games that can drag on indefinitely if the score remains tied after nine innings. Not only are these extended games in opposition to MLB’s quest to improve baseball’s pace of play, it also forces teams to burn through their bullpens. The desire to win that one game can tire out a pitching staff to the point that it negatively effects their chances to win the next several games. In some cases when a team has already utilized every available reliever they are forced to put a position player on the mound, which is hardly an ideal way to determine meaningful games.
Credit MLB for being open to exploring new ways to prevent those outcomes, but this plan of starting an inning with a runner in scoring position isn’t sitting well with some players, particularly pitchers. That sentiment was expressed by Price in a Tweet dripping in sarcasm that he posted on Monday during the WBC matchup between Israel and South Korea.
Price is no stranger to expressing his views on social media, so using his Twitter account as a platform to mock a rule he disagrees with is no surprise.
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He also makes a valid point about whether or not it would count as an earned run against the pitcher if the runner automatically starting the inning on base were to score. After all, it’s not the pitcher’s fault that a runner is already in scoring position when they step on the mound.
It may seem like a relatively minor detail, but in a sport where statistics are so ingrained in how we evaluate players it does matter.
Imagine if Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel was tagged with a couple of extra losses because the opposing team put down a bunt in extra innings to move a runner to third and followed with a sac fly to win the game. Relievers pitch fewer innings, so a few extra runs allowed can make a significant difference. Boston played in 12 extra-innings games last season, so if that scenario played out for Kimbrel in a few of those games then his modest 3.40 ERA would suddenly be flirting with an unsavory 4.00 mark.
While any individual pitcher is unlikely to be repeatedly victimized by this rule, it wouldn’t take much for this scenario to skew a relievers numbers. The effect this can have on a pitcher’s numbers could be a detriment to the player’s future salary earnings and legacy.
Even if the rule is eventually implemented in MLB, it’s unlikely to have any direct effect on Price given that he would rarely be on the mound in extra innings. However, as a pitcher, he can certainly have a strong opinion on the matter.
The attempt to shorten games by preventing extra-inning affairs from lasting deep into the night is a noble concept, but not without it’s flaws. The benefits are clear, but we can’t overlook the downside of making such a drastic change.
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Price may be taking a humorous tone with his Tweet, but his feedback may open some eyes in the league office to aspects they may not have considered. It doesn’t mean the idea is going away, but perhaps the rule can be tweaked to soften the impact on his fellow pitchers.