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We'll Have An Extra-Inning Ballgame Today

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Those of "a certain age" will remember that as Jack Brickhouse's pat phrase whenever the game would go past nine innings. Recently, Len & Bob mentioned that they thought there had been a larger-than-usual number of extra-inning games this year, not only for the Cubs (who already have played eight, after having ten all of last year), but all across the major leagues.

So that got me to a bit of researching... and it's not true. Through yesterday, there had been 744 games played -- just short of 1/3 of the season, a good sample size. 64 of them have gone into extras, 8.6%. In 2007, of the 2431 games played (yes, an odd number, since there was a tiebreaker game played), 220 went past nine, 9.5%.

That means extra-inning games are actually down... but maybe Len and Bob are reacting because of this: of the 64 extra-inning games so far in 2008, 22 of them -- 34% -- have gone 12 innings or more, a game you'd probably consider very long, rather than the garden-variety 10-inning game. The Cubs have played three of the longer ones, all of those against the Pirates, which is probably where Len & Bob got their impression. (The Pirates, for their part, have played four of those -- the three vs. the Cubs, and their season opener at Atlanta.)

But that does raise a discussion topic, which is the point of this post. What do longer extra-inning games do to managers, players and rosters? We saw how Cub relief pitchers were pushed to the max this past weekend, and how it may have even affected Lou's use of his bullpen yesterday (sticking with Bob Howry when it was an obvious call-the-LOOGY situation, for example). So does this mean the 12-man (or even 13 or 14, in the extreme example shown by Ned Yost and the Brewers earlier this year) pitching staff is a good idea? Or does that mean your bench is too short and you run out of position players too early? How should a good manager/GM combination structure his roster?

OK, have at it.