The Cincinnati Reds swept the Detroit Tigers in a doubleheader unlike any other yesterday. Major League Baseball's first foray into the seven-inning game was a mixed bag. Playing 14 innings instead of 18 certainly made the long day a bit shorter and, on balance, the most deserving team won both ends.
But it was weird. Like watching a Canadian reality show or movie where everything is, like, seven percent off. The home announcers must have reminded viewers that there was less game remaining than usual 100 times, yet every time it was hard to grasp. Almost like 150 years of nine-inning baseball has conditioned players and fans alike to a certain rhythm.
All of this to say that, overall, these truncated doubleheaders are a fine way to negotiate the almost-impossible task of getting all MLB teams to the desired yet still shortfall-ish 60 game mark. They will likely be a one-year fix in a season full of experimentation and making it up as we go. With that in mind, then, I'd like to be so bold as to float a wrinkle going forward.
The home team in these twinbills should be afforded the opportunity to choose to bat first. It's an opportunity they should consider, considering the small sample size we have to study. Cincinnati scored first in each contest, putting up two runs in the opener and a single run in the nightcap. This effectively allowed them to go into the de facto bottom of the third with an advantage.
Psychologically, this is way more of an edge than going into the bottom of the first ahead on the scoreboard. Things get late extremely early in a seven-inning contest. There are fewer outs to burn and less lineup turnover.
Now, quite obviously, there's no advantage to the team serving as visitors if they fail to score. And it'd be worth looking at how often games would go to extras after seven compared to nine while making any type of informed calculation. I'd be pretty interested in seeing the cost-benefit analysis and if it would move me off the gut feeling of wanting first ups.
Considering all the other fly-by-night stuff MLB is implementing, throwing this option into the mix doesn't seem like a huge lift. What's the worst that can happen? A team declines it and operates under the long-standing status quo?
Best-case scenario is it adds excitement, debate, and strategy and critical mass builds for it to remain an option for nine-inning games in the long run.