Why baseball is experimenting with bigger bases in the minor leagues

Going off-base?

Photo by Brian Blanco (Getty Images)

The Major League Baseball season opened last week, but while it was a festive day in many cities around the country, a lot of eyes were expected to be on the minor leagues and various rules changes.

One of them is bigger bases that are more forgiving for baserunners and infielders, which are being introduced at the AAA level.

The size of the bases are being increased from 15-inch squares to 18-inch squares, and will also feature less of what’s called a ramp.

Often times, base stealers often barrel into a base, but once they reach it, they are going so fast that they end up going through the bag or popping up for a split second.

When that happens, the defender at the bag just has to keep his glove on the runner and the umpire calls the runner out, even if he beat the tag originally.

Such a play wasn’t usually easily detected by umpires until instant replay was instituted, because it unfolded so fast. Now, managers can see a replay of the runner popping off the bag for a split second while his defender kept the tag, challenge the call and see the runner called out after a review by the umpires.

“The current base, if you don’t hit the front of it and stop, you’re going through it,” said Chris Marinak, Major League Baseball’s chief operations and strategy officer, to the New York Post. “And this base is a little more forgiving in the sense that, if you hit the front of it, hopefully, there’s more catch on the base. You can actually stop on the bag without popping off. Certainly, that’s one of the ideas behind it.”

Marinak also told the Post that infielders are in favor of the bigger bases because it allows them to turn double plays or step on the base to make an out without fears of baserunners stepping on their foot or heel.

However, while bigger bases could enhance safety measures, they could also lead to unintended consequences such as more infield hits and stolen bases.

All of the data will be thoroughly analyzed to see if it will be feasible to be introduced at the major league level.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.