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Should baseball try tie games? Here’s an intriguing new idea

I’ve been against tie games. But this might work.

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Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

I’ve always been very much against the idea of tie games in baseball.

Yes, it’s true that Japan’s major league, Nippon Pro Baseball, declares games ties after 12 innings.

But in the major leagues, extra-inning games have often provided some of the most compelling and interesting baseball, especially if they go 16, 17, 18 or more innings. Games that go past 12 innings in MLB amount to about 1.5 percent of all games, so “fixing” this would appear to me to be a solution in search of a problem.

Then I read this article by Brittany Ghiroli, who covers the Nationals for The Athletic. Ghiroli had sent out this tweet a couple of weeks ago, expecting to get nothing more than some Twitter conversation going:

She got much more than that in response. I can’t say I’m 100 percent convinced, but this... intrigued me:

The death to extra innings was just going to be a simple tweet. An admittingly selfish viewpoint regarding a 162-game season preceded by six weeks of spring training. I was prepared to relegate my private thoughts about leaving after nine innings, not watching position players attempt to pitch and keeping guys fresh by avoiding 16-inning marathons to myself.

That is, until I got an email from a reader named Bob putting my theory to the test.

“That’s two points for a win, one point for ties, zero points for a loss,” Bob — an 82-year-old Diamondbacks fan — wrote, with a neatly organized table showing the results of two National League divisions.

Essentially, that would be the National Hockey League’s old way of dealing with tie games, the pre-overtime, pre-shootoout point system.

Ghiroli goes through the MLB standings from 2019 using this system. It really wouldn’t have changed much — except the Brewers would have won the N.L. Central instead of the Cardinals. It wouldn’t have changed the Cubs’ position at all. The Cubs went 5-8 in extra-inning games last year.

She reaches this conclusion:

Who said ties will be boring? Let’s see a real emphasis on winning in nine innings, the drama unfolding over the final three outs because there is no more baseball. Managers won’t have to save guys in the bullpen or think about who may be needed to play the field in the 10th. Baseball had a bullpen problem last year anyway with more teams than ever before struggling to find enough good relievers.

Well now. This is something I hadn’t considered previously. It’s certainly better than the “runner on second base” to start extra innings that has been used in the minor leagues for the last two seasons. To me, that’s not baseball. At least ending in ties wouldn’t change the way the game is played, though as Ghiroli notes, it would possibly change strategy for managers. And here’s a really good idea:

Let’s give it a try this year, especially if the proposed “Arizona plan” comes to fruition and there will be tripleheaders every day and a need for an actual approximate start and end time. If MLB wants to pack as many games as possible into a shortened season — and they say they do — will the union agree to fewer off days? That’s an easier sell when the idea of a 17-inning game goes away.

Well, sure. If the “Arizona Bubble League” or something similar is used to play actual baseball in 2020, why not try this out? Playing baseball under those conditions is going to be so different from what we’ve had before. I am not opposed to trying out new things if that’s how baseball is going to happen this year. If it works, if it seems as if tie games under those circumstances seem good for everyone, perhaps it could be something baseball could try out when normal, everyday life resumes and the game can come back home to its usual ballparks.

There is one thing I might consider doing differently from the old NHL style of two points for a win, one for a tie. Why not give three points for a win? That would give much more of an incentive for teams entering the ninth inning tied to try to win, instead of settling for the single point for a tie.

If that system had been in place for the 2019 N.L. Central, the standings would have been as follows (using the following system for computing: regular season wins – extra-inning wins x 3 + total of extra-inning games = total points):

Brewers 261 (89 wins, 7 in extras, 15 total extra-inning games)
Cardinals 261 (91 wins, 8 in extras, 12 total extra-inning games)
Cubs 250 (84 wins, 5 in extras, 13 total extra-inning games)
Reds 219 (75 wins, 7 in extras, 15 total extra-inning games)
Pirates 202 (69 wins, 8 in extras, 19 total extra-inning games)

Well. That way, you’d have had a tie for the division title and a necessary tiebreaker game. For tiebreakers, obviously you’d use extra innings, which would also be used in postseason games.

As I noted above, I’ve previously been dead-set against tie games in Major League Baseball. But this article really made me think.


Regarding tie games in baseball...

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    No way! Keep things the way they are
    (153 votes)
  • 17%
    I like the 2 points for a win, 1 point for a tie idea
    (75 votes)
  • 23%
    I like the 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie idea
    (100 votes)
  • 21%
    Ties are okay, but after 12 innings, not nine
    (92 votes)
  • 2%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (10 votes)
430 votes total Vote Now