MLB Competition Committee Makes ‘Ghost Runner’ Permanent; Updates Position Players Pitching Rule
MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The joint competition committee voted to implement two additional rule changes for the 2023 MLB season with regard to the automatic runner in extra innings and position players pitching.

MLB’s competition committee voted to make the automatic runner a permanent rule moving forward, but the ‘ghost runner’ starting on second base in extra innings will still only apply to regular-season games.

Under the rule, teams will begin each inning after the ninth with a placed runner on second base. The rule was first instituted in 2020 in an effort to preserve player health and safety during the pandemic-shortened season.

The player who made the final out of the previous inning is selected to go on second base for the next extra inning.

However, if the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter is a pitcher, the runner placed on second base at the start of that half-inning may be the player preceding the pitcher in the batting order.

For purposes of calculating earned runs, the runner who begins an inning on second base pursuant to the rule will be considered one that reached second base because of a fielding error, but no error shall be charged to the opposing team or to any player.

This means the position player’s stats are not changed, and the pitcher will not be charged with an earned run if he does score.

Position players pitching rule update

This year, position players may only take the mound if a game is in extra innings, his team is trailing by at least eight runs at any point, or his team is winning by at least 10 runs in the ninth.

Last season, teams were permitted to use position pitchers on the mound only in extra innings, or if his team was trailing or winning by at least six runs at any point.

It resulted in a record 132 pitching appearances by position players during the 2022 campaign. That was up from 89 during the 2021 season and easily surpassed the previous high of 90 two years prior.

Of the 132 pitching appearances by position players, 18 took place when his team was leading by at least six runs. For perspective, there was only one such appearance during the 2019 and 2021 seasons combined.

The rule changes are among a slew coming to MLB this season, including a pitch timer, shift restrictions and bigger bases.

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