What Is A Ghost Runner in Baseball?

What is a ghost runner in baseball? If you are looking to find an answer, you are at the right place! 

Ghost runner in baseball is a rule that lets teams put a free runner on second base at the start of every inning after the ninth. The term “ghost runner” refers to the player who’s sent to second base for extra innings. The official term is “extra inning runner,” but ghost runner is the commonly used term. The 2020 season was the first time this rule was used in MLB, and the league has said that the “ghost runner” rule will become a permanent part of the game. 

Now that you know what a ghost runner is, let’s take an in-depth look into why this rule exists and what its uses are. 

Why Did MLB Introduce the Ghost Runner Rule? 

MLB added the “ghost-runner” rule for the 2020 season to cut down on game time. The 2020 season was the COVID season, so MLB introduced the ghost runner rule to ensure that games ended in a timely manner. 

Players liked the rule, so MLB made it last longer for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Starting in 2023, it will stay in place permanently. Many fans may not like the rule, but it has worked well. Out of the 223 regular season games that went into extra innings in 2022, only seven made it to the 13th inning.

The last year in MLB before the extra-runner rule was 2019, 24 games went over 13 innings. In 2019, the Cardinals and Diamondbacks played a 19-inning, 413-minute game that was the longest. Since the extra-runner rule was implemented, the longest game was between the Dodgers and Padres on August 25, 2022. It went 16 innings, which is 349 minutes.

Other reasons the ghost runner rule was introduced are: 

Player Safety 

Baseball is a physically demanding game, and the extra inning can take a toll on the players. With a dedicated extra innings runner, this physical exertion can be reduced. 

Entertainment Value 

MLB introduced the rule in an effort to make extra-inning games more exciting and engaging for fans. The rule creates immediate scoring opportunities and increases the likelihood of games ending sooner, making them more compelling to watch.

How Is the Ghost Runner Rule Different from Your Backyard Rule? 

It is against the rules to put a runner on second base at the start of the top of the tenth inning. This must happen until one team wins in extra innings. The pitcher doesn’t get charged with an earned run if the “ghost-runner” scores from second base. 

Along with the extra-runner rule, MLB also announced a new rule for position players who throw. From 2023 on, position players will only be able to throw when their team is ahead by 10 runs in the ninth inning, behind by 8 runs at any point, or in extra innings. The number of times position players pitched in 2022 was 132.

MLB changed more rules than just the extra-runner and pitching rules this summer. In 2023, MLB will add a pitch clock, limit defense shifts, and make the bases bigger for the first time. MLB made all five of these changes to cut down on the average time of games, which has been over three hours since the 2016 season.

How Has the Ghost-Runner Impacted Play?

Baseball America’s study showed that 73 percent of extra-inning games were decided with just one added inning with ghost runners. Before that, only 45 percent of extra-inning games ended after just one added inning. Those numbers have held at the major league level.

Putting a runner on second to start extra innings has had big effects. Thirty baseball games went 13 innings or longer in 2019, and eight went over 15 innings. There were only 11 games last year that went 13 innings or longer and none that went over 15. People may want to shorten games because, as time passes, pitching staffs will have more and more one-inning pitchers, and injuries will still be common. Putting pressure on the game to end faster could benefit everyone’s arms.

Undoubtedly, everyone who works at the game would rather not have 20-inning bouts. But people at the game might disagree and say that since this rule has been in place, more runs have been scored in extra innings than in the first nine. That is not at all like baseball at all! As a response, they might tell baseball teams to add more pitchers who can go longer in case of an emergency.

The Latest MLB Pitch Clock Rules 

The rule change stipulates the following:

  • The pitcher has to start moving to throw the ball before the pitch timer goes off. If pitchers exceed the time limit, they are given an automatic ball. If a batter goes over the limit, they are automatically given a strike.
  • Batters have 8 seconds to get in the box and tell the pitcher they are there, or they will be charged with an automatic strike.
  • If the pitcher tries to pick off a runner or steps off the rubber with runners on base, the count starts over.
  • Pitchers can only release twice per plate appearance, so they can only try to pick off or step off two balls. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runner progresses while the plate is being looked at.
  • If there is a third try to pick off the runner, the runner moves up one base automatically if the attempt fails.
  • Visits to the mound, injuries, and timeouts for the attacking team do not count as disengagement.
  • If a team has used up all five mound trips before the ninth inning, it will get one more in the ninth inning. This does act as an extra disconnect.
  • If special situations call for it, umpires can give extra time. The judge could give the catcher extra time to put on his catching gear if he was thrown out on the bases at the end of the previous half-inning.

Bottom Line 

The beauty of baseball is in its simplicity and its fairness. One man with a ball tries to throw it past one man with a stick. You get three shots at it, and they must be hittable balls. No running out the clock. No rolling the ball in the dirt. It is even and fair.

Ghost runner is a schoolyard method of describing runners on base when the player had to leave the base to bat. In extra games, the ghost runner is used at second base. This makes it more likely that the hitting team will score first, which speeds up the game’s end. 

Per the rules, the runner at second is the last out from the previous game. The phrase “ghost runner” comes from everyday language used when one team has fewer players than the other. To put it another way, a made-up runner on base. Because of COVID-19, the MLB season was cut short to 60 games in 2020, and Ghost Runners debuted. The rule was a success in keeping games short and managing tournament schedules, and so it has become a permanent fixture of the game. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

There is some question related to what is a ghost runner in baseball are as follows:

What determines who the Ghost Runner is?

It is common to assign the player who made the final out of the previous extra inning to play second base on the first play of the next extra inning.

Does MLB still use the Ghost Runner?

MLB first used the extra-innings tiebreaker rule during the 2020 pandemic season, which had 60 games. This was done to cut down on injuries after the unusually long spring training break and summertime build-up period for pitchers. The rule stayed in place for a short time in 2021 and 2022 but is now forever.

How do Ghost Runners work?

If the team playing offense needs more players to continue, the next player at bat is replaced by an invisible runner. Typically, the live runner must verbally announce: “invisible runner on _______ base” or “ghost runner on _______” before they can walk off base.

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