The era of baseball games that stretch near 20 innings is coming to an end.
On Monday, ESPN reported a vision of what baseball will look like in 2037, with five major predictions of how the game will change. The predictions are based on interviews with 12 people that include general managers, owners, players, and umpires about where they think the game is headed in 20 years, or less.
Runner on Second in the 12th
Starting with a runner in scoring position in extra innings is going to be one of the big changes to the game in 20 years, but it may not happen until the 12th inning.
The Pitch Clock
This is the cure for everyone who complains that baseball is too slow. Pitchers will only have 20 seconds. If they don’t, a ball gets added on the count. Batters won’t be allowed to leave the batter’s box between pitches either, so the pitcher isn’t waiting on them anymore.
Balls that have a surface with more grip could start appearing as soon as next season. Because of the speed of modern pitches, it is incredibly dangerous when balls slip in a pitcher’s grip.
Universal Designated Hitter
Baseball diehards have been threatened with the universal DH since it made its debut in 1973. If baseball is dependent on scoring runs to make money, it maybe makes sense if you overlook the fact that seven of the top ten highest scoring teams in baseball right now are National League teams. But ESPN is serious in predicting that by 2037 not only will we all have designated hitters, but that we will all be one league of only 28 teams. And instead of the current system, each team will play all the other teams six times, with the best 10 teams going to the playoffs.
Home Plate Umpire Leaves Home Plate
The home plate umpire will relocated behind the pitcher in order to better see whether a ball is inside or on the edge of the strike zone. It’s likely that there will still be a laser component to high and low balls, and some sort of electronic system to connect the umpire to the laser measurements.
These predictions suggest big changes to a sport that is has mostly stuck to its traditions in the age of aggressive instant replay. ESPN points out that this is likely what baseball will be, and not what people think it should be, so if you’re a diehard for the national league game, or love extra innings, you still have some time to take your case to the commissioner.