MLB Ghost Runner Rule

MLB Ghost Runner Rule

Although most professional baseball games go to nine innings, a tied score can force the game into extra innings. In 2020, the MLB introduced a rule to quicken such extra innings during the regular season and made it a permanent fixture of the sport in 2023. Read on to learn all about the MLB’s ghost runner rule.

Ghost Runner Rules

The ghost runner rule gives each team a runner on second base at the start of every additional extra inning after the ninth inning. It was initially adopted by the MLB in 2020 and the NCAA in 2021, making the majority of collegiate and professional baseball have a ghost runner during extra innings of regular season games.

The extra innings ghost runner rule is also known to some as the “Manfred Man Rule.” The name originates from that of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who is known for campaigning for baseball games to be shortened. Since Manfred created the idea of a free runner in extra innings, people began to call the ghost runner “the Manfred Man,” a slightly-mocking name that reflected many people’s distaste for the new rule.

Origins of the Rule

The ghost runner rule was implemented as part of the MLB’s pandemic guidelines for two main reasons. Firstly, adding a ghost runner during extra innings meant that games went faster, reducing the time that athletes were on the field. Secondly, reducing game time had a benefit for teams and their rosters as well, given that fewer pitchers and batters were necessary during games.

The MLB ghost runner rule first originated during the shortened 2020 MLB season. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which swept the world starting in March 2020, many sports were affected by the need to shorten or cancel games, create social distancing between athletes, and prevent the spread of disease.

After electing to shorten the 2020 season, the MLB also chose to institute a number of rule changes as part of their Health and Safety Guidelines. Many of these rules were meant to be temporary changes to ensure the safety of players and games, but others also served as a test for future rule adjustments, and the ghost runner rule was one of them.

As the MLB had long been debating ways to shorten game length in order to broaden the appeal of baseball, the ghost runner rule proved to be an effective adjustment, and it was decided that the rule would remain in place for both 2021 and 2022 seasons. The NCAA also adopted the ghost runner rule beginning in 2021. The ghost runner rule was eventually made permanent for the 2023 MLB season, applying to all regular-season games, but not to games during the playoffs or World Series.

MLB Ghost Runner Rule Summary

  • The ghost runner rule is a rule that applies to extra innings in baseball.
  • According to the rule, if a game tied at the end of the ninth inning goes to extra innings, each team will get a runner on second base at the start of each additional inning.
  • The free runner received by each team starts every half-inning during extra innings automatically on second base.
  • The ghost runner rule was first put in place during the shortened 2020 MLB season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The rule remained in place in both 2021 and 2022.
  • The ghost runner rule was made permanent for all regular-season games in 2023.
  • As of now, the ghost runner rule does not apply in postseason games.


What is the MLB extra innings ghost runner rule?

The MLB extra innings ghost runner rule is a newer rule that gives teams a free runner on second base at the start of any extra inning. This rule only applies for regular-season games and is meant to accelerate how quickly teams can score during extra innings, and thus how much faster the game can end. The rule is also sometimes called the “Manfred Man” rule after baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.

When was the ghost runner rule first implemented?

The ghost runner rule was first implemented in 2020. The MLB already had a season shortened by the pandemic and wanted to ensure that games did not run too long, adding the ghost runner rule for all regular-season games. The ghost runner rule was first implemented by the NCAA for collegiate baseball in 2021 and has also remained since.

Why did the MLB make the ghost runner rule permanent?

The MLB made the ghost runner rule permanent in 2023. The rule had been preliminarily added in 2020 and then renewed before the start of the next two seasons. However, it was announced by the MLB that the ghost runner rule would become permanent for the 2023 season, though it would still not be applied during postseason games.