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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.

Fed revamps rules for officials, restricts trades after controversies

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve on Thursday announced significant changes to its rules regulating officials' financial activities following controversy last month over some officials' past trading practices.

Why it matters: The rule revamp is a coda on the biggest scandal to hit the Fed in recent memory.

Texas urges Supreme Court to leave abortion ban in place

Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Texas on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to keep in place a law that bans abortions after an embryo's cardiac activity is detected, which can be as soon as six weeks and before many people know they are pregnant.

Driving the news: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the high court to ignore the Justice Department's emergency request that they temporarily block the law while federal courts consider its constitutionality since it "lacks standing because it has not been injured by SB 8."

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