What is a Ghost Runner in Baseball? – Baseball Rule Explained

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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what is a ghost runner in baseball

Unlike basketball, football, and soccer, baseball games don’t operate with a time clock. As a result, baseball matches can go on indefinitely. To address this issue, officials have recently added a ghost runner in Major League baseball.

What is a ghost runner in baseball? The MLB ghost runner is a runner automatically placed on second base at the start of each extra inning. It is intended to prevent baseball matches from extending for long hours.

What is the Purpose of the Ghost Runner Rule?


The ghost runner MLB rule is a relatively new rule that was first implemented in the 2020 regular season. As part of safety and protocol rules at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, its primary purpose was to limit exposure by cutting short any match that extended to extra innings.

The ghost runner is also often referred to as the designated runner or automatic runner. MLB officials believed that placing an extra inning runner on second base at the start of each inning would up the chances of either team scoring a run. That way, matches could end earlier.

Besides speeding up games that continued beyond the ninth inning, this MLB free runner rule also worked in favor of the pitchers. There was a lesser need for them to pitch in extra innings, thus preserving their pitching arm and preventing undue injury.

How is the Ghost Runner Chosen in Major League Baseball?

Only specific players can be the MLB ghost runner when matches extend beyond the ninth inning. There are detailed implementing regulations to the ghost runner rule, so teams are not at liberty to choose their fastest runners to put on 2nd base.

Each MLB team has its batting lineup as part of its offensive strategy. This is often referred to as the batting order and lists the sequence in which hitters take their turns in batting. 

According to the ghost runner rule, the designated runner is the hitter that precedes the current batter in the batting order. So, technically, that would be the player who batted last in the previous inning.

For instance, batter #5 is scheduled to come up to the batter’s box at the end of a tied nine-inning game. Therefore, the 10th inning will start with batter #5 at bat and batter #4 on the 2nd base as the ghost runner.

Are There Limitations to What a Ghost Runner Can Do?


The ghost runner enjoys all the privileges of a regular runner on base, except that runs earned will not count against the pitcher’s earned run average (ERA). That makes sense since the ghost runner didn’t really get to 2nd base by his personal effort.

However, the ghost runner can steal bases, advance on a wild pitch or passed ball, and score a run. And while a ghost runner’s performance does not affect the pitcher’s ERA, getting to the home plate adds to the hitter’s run-scored record.

However, such loopholes haven’t escaped the eyes and minds of avid baseball advocates. As a result, there have been proposals to come up with more specific baseball statistics to address these variations and measure their occurrences.

Has the Ghost Runner Rule Been Effective?

This runner on 2nd extra innings rule has considerably shortened baseball matches that would have otherwise gone for long hours and worn out players, particularly the pitchers. Figures are available to validate this observation.

After MLB placed ghost runners in the 2020 regular season, there was a noticeable drop in the number of extra-innings for nine-inning matches that ended in a tie.

Games that went past the 11th inning were down by 73 percent—from a high of 60 in 2019 to a low of 16 in 2020. Moreover, only one match stretched to the 15th inning. That’s a stark contrast to and a sizable 93-percent drop from 15 games in 2019!

Will the MLB Ghost Runner Become a Permanent Ruling in Regular Season Games?


Because of its favorable results, many players, team managers, and officials are advocating for the continued or even permanent implementation of the MLB runner on second rule.

All sectors believe that the ghost runner rule creates a win-win situation by adding excitement to the game and speeding it up without leaving players totally spent or even injured. And it seems the clamor for its retention hasn’t fallen on deaf ears.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred himself has expressed support numerous times and hinted that the ghost runner is here to stay. While the rule did not apply to postseason games, it made a comeback during the 2021 and 2022 regular seasons.


Sporting competitions adapt to the changing times. Officials create, test out, and modify game rules, sometimes even breaking tradition for the common good. Such is the case of the ghost runner rule in baseball.

What is a ghost runner in baseball? After reading this article, you now have a clearer picture of this relatively new rule in Major League Baseball that has gained the favor of players and fans alike. Feel free to share your newly acquired knowledge with fellow baseball enthusiasts. 

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