During the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season, the league office put into effect a new rule that introduced most fans to the “ghost runner.” The rule was meant to be temporary, but the ghost runner is still in effect three seasons after it was first put into place. So, what exactly is the ghost runner rule, and is it now a permanent fixture in Major League Baseball? Here’s what we know.
What is the ghost runner rule?
In the mid-2010s, MLB began experimentation with the “ghost runner” in the Minor Leagues. The rule involves putting the player that was last up at the plate in the ninth inning on second base to start the 10th inning. This rule — which applies to both the home and road teams — was looked at as a way to speed up games.
Major League Baseball added the rule and put it into effect in 2020, during the COVID-shortened season. The rule gave the league chance to quickly decide extra inning games, and limit the possibility of injuries during such games. The rule was kept into effect on a temporary basis for both the 2021 and 2022 seasons in the regular season, as well.
However, the “ghost runner” rule has never been implemented in postseason games.
Is it permanent?
As of now, that appears to be the case. In February 2023, the MLB’s Joint Competition Committee voted unanimously to keep the rule for the 2023 season and beyond. But much like in prior seasons, the ghost runner will only be used in regular season games. For postseason extra inning games, each extra inning will start with a clean state on the bases.
The rule has been somewhat divisive, given that fact that MLB has overhauled decades of precedent, in terms of how extra inning games are decided. On the other hand, the rule has reportedly received support from both the league and the players.