Ghost Runners In Extras: Has It Run Its Course?

Josh Hader, closer, Milwaukee Brewers
Even relievers las good as Josh Hader, closer for the Milwaukee Brewers can find extra innings stressful. Add a ghost runner on second to start the inning and it becomes more difficult. Morry Gash/AP

Are Ghost Runners The Right Way To Speed Up The Game?

Ghost runners are not a new in thing in baseball. Kids on the play ground who do not have enough players use them. They also have been a part of minor league extra innings for years. When MLB adopted the idea during the pandemic the idea made sense for players health and safety. It shortened the games and there was less contact because of it.

Now what started as a good idea to protect players health feels artificial. The game needs to be shortened before it even goes to extra innings, which is why MLB wants a pitch clock. Speeding up the game makes more sense in regulation than just in extra innings. By that point a game could already be three and a half hours long or more and could feel drawn out to some fans.

Stress On Relievers Already An Issue

In modern baseball perhaps no group of players has greater stress on them than relief pitchers. Complete games are mostly a thing of the past. Pitchers rarely throw more than one hundred pitches in a game. Bullpens need so many different types of relievers now there is a real difficulty in finding all the different one you need. Long relief, lefty and righty specialists, a closer, and set up man are all needed now. Do relievers need more stress placed on them with a runner starting on second in extra innings?

Relievers who are as good as the Milwaukee Brewers Josh Hader or the Atlanta Braves Kenley Jansen may not even be in the game by the tenth inning. Five or six pitchers out of the bullpen could have been used by that point. Perhaps that is one reason MLB is considering getting rid of ghost runners on second after this year. If baseball really wants to cut down on injuries then finding a better balance between starters going deeper in games and using fewer relievers would be a good start.

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