How will the new short season extra-inning rule impact the Cubs in the Central?
When Major League Baseball action begins at the end of July, Chicago Cubs fans will notice some differences in the rules for this shortened season. One of the biggest changes is that extra-inning games will feature a runner at second base to start the extra frames.
Considering the Cubs played 13 extra-inning games last season, the chance of this rule affecting the team in a shortened season is pretty high. Division rivals seemed to present the biggest challenge to the Cubs when looking at those extra-inning contests last season. Chicago played the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers twice in extra-innings last season.
Considering Chicago lost both extra-inning games to the Cardinals, placing a runner on second base in the tenth inning this short season, would give the Cards a slight advantage. According to Tim Stebbins at NBC Sports Chicago, David Ross’ club will play their fellow NL Central teams 10 times apiece (MIL/CIN/STL/PIT) and the American League Central clubs four times each (DET/CWS/MIN/CLE/KC).
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With 40 games against division rivals in the shortened season, there is actually a better than average chance that Chicago will have to deal with this dramatic change more than a few times. The Cubs may even want to try a few defensive plays to counter this advantage. Second baseman Nico Hoerner, shortstop Javier Baez and first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be the key to tilting the odds back in the good guys’ favor.
The Cubs split the two extra-inning games with the Brewers last season but played the Cincinnati Reds three times in extras. The North Siders won just one of those three games against the Reds and so will have their hands full with any extra-inning games against the usual suspects of the division.
On the offensive side of the house, Ross may want to consider putting a speed demon at second base for when the Cubs are facing this new situation in extras. Some of his younger guys might do the trick in bringing home that advantage late in games.
The one difference between last year’s Cubs team and this year, is that there has been a high focus on offensive production this season which could keep Chicago ahead on the box score through 10 innings. Considering that many of those extra-inning games were decided by one run is worrisome, especially with a free runner on second base, but if the Cubs are putting up double digits in the first three frames, then they may never have to worry about a tenth inning.
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It would be to the team’s advantage in the short season to try and get ahead early to avoid this scenario. Chicago will look to be high-offensive producers in this sprint of a season and try to put up multiple runs on the scoreboard to separate themselves from the pack. They will then look to brushing off that once extremely hot double-play to keep all comers at a healthy distance away.
You can call it: Cub-distancing.