Effectively Wild Episode 1679: How to Keep Players Healthy in 2021

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about the seemingly building backlash to the extra-innings automatic-runner rule and Dusty Baker’s comments about anti-Astros heckling, then (19:51) bring on high performance coach Gary McCoy to discuss his epiphany about preventing player injuries, the importance of deceleration, how he helped a team in Taiwan have an injury-free season, the problems with innings limits and pitch limits, how MLB teams should be handling players in a season following a light workload, how and why teams are investing in sports science, how motion-tracking technology and artificial intelligence can help prevent injuries, and more.

Audio intro: Durand Jones & The Indications, "Make a Change"
Audio interstitial: Parquet Courts, "Picture of Health"
Audio outro: The Posies, "Take Care of Yourself"

Link to Ginny Searle on the automatic-runner rule
Link to Dusty on heckling
Link to Joe Lemire on Gary and the Brothers
Link to Gary’s LinkedIn page
Link to study on injury rates in 2020
Link to Mike Petriello on teams managing workloads
Link to J.J. Cooper on innings limits
Link to study on innings limits
Link to second study on innings limits

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I’m so tied on the extra innings thing. On one hand, I hate it for pretty much all the reasons Ben stated. Having this tense and close game for 9 innings, only to fundamentally change how run scoring works immediately in the 10th….that’s not real baseball to me. It sort of demeans the effort both teams have put in to keep the game as close as they possibly can.

But, having worked at minor league affiliates in the past in years with this rule, the extra inning rule is great. Days are long. You come into the clubhouse at 11am and often don’t even get to leave until 11p-12a. It’s worse on the road when a game ends late, you have to wait for everyone to eat after the game, then you take the bus, and battle the bad hotel WiFi to complete work before finally getting to sleep at around 2:30-3am. When the game goes 15 innings, it makes the next day brutal. So I guess from a work-life perspective, I think there’s substantial value. And again, there’s obviously some significant differences between MiLB and MLB.

I do think this rule is great for the minor leagues for that reason. Plus, the minors exist for the sake of player development. But, I hate it at the MLB level. Why not just call it a tie after 12? Or implement this rule after 12? At least then the teams have 3 more extra innings to make something happen. And if they don’t, enough is enough at that point. As for fans, I think they always get what they pay for – 9 innings. That’s all that’s promised. And I think everyone beyond us die-hards are pretty okay with it. Fans are adaptable and will get used to it, but the way this has been going so far in 2021, it’s really fundamentally altering the game in a really negative way.