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Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier lays down a bunt. Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Extra innings in 2020 will begin with a man on second base — a temporary rule adopted by MLB to speed up games in this sprint of a season.

Why it matters: Some people hate the rule, but at the end of the day it leads to quicker games and more nuanced strategy.

  • "It forces me to manage," a minor league manager who's played under these rules since 2018 told The Athletic.

The state of play: So far, the rule has worked, with six of the eight (75%) extra inning games ending in the 10th. From 2012 to 2017, that number was just 43.7%.

The big picture: The rule's existence is one thing, but the strategies employed within are something else entirely. Most notably, should teams bunt the runner to third or swing away and try for a big inning?

  • Argument for bunting: From 2015 to 2019, with a runner on second and nobody out, at least one run scored 61% of the time, per WSJ's Jared Diamond (subscription). With a man on third and one out, that probability climbed to 65%. Translation: get the runner to third however you can.
  • Argument against: Bunting is more difficult than it looks, and "relatively few players even practice [it] anymore." Plus, why give up an out when, with the right batter at the plate, you've got a 30% chance of knocking him in with a base hit? Billy Beane would never.
  • Of note: Just one team (the Royals) has used the sacrifice bunt in this situation so far, with a speedster on second and an inexperienced batter at the plate — a prime situation to dust off the old-school tactic.

The bottom line: The new extra innings rule may or may not exist after 2020, but the data collected from it will almost certainly inform future strategy. In a 60-game lab experiment of a season, that's about all you can ask for.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Sep 23, 2020 - Sports

Less travel is causing the NBA to see better basketball

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In addition to keeping out the coronavirus, the NBA bubble has also delivered a stellar on-court product, with crisp, entertaining play night in and night out.

Why it matters: General managers, athletic trainers and league officials believe the lack of travel is a driving force behind the high quality of play — an observation that could lead to scheduling changes for next season and beyond.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
39 mins ago - Economy & Business

How GameStop exposed the market

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Retail traders have found a cheat code for the stock market, and barring some major action from regulatory authorities or a massive turn in their favored companies, they're going to keep using it to score "tendies" and turn Wall Street on its head.

What's happening: The share prices of companies like GameStop are rocketing higher, based largely on the social media organizing of a 3-million strong group of Redditors who are eagerly piling into companies that big hedge funds are short selling, or betting will fall in price.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Who benefits from Biden's move to reopen ACA enrollment

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Nearly 15 million Americans who are currently uninsured are eligible for coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and more than half of them would qualify for subsidies, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation brief.

Why it matters: President Biden is expected to announce today that he'll be reopening the marketplaces for a special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15, but getting a significant number of people to sign up for coverage will likely require targeted outreach.

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