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June 20, 2013

Skewed Left

Preparing for Baseball's Most Extreme Circumstances

by Zachary Levine


Disaster experts—and really, what better analogy is there for a discussion of major league managers—often use terms like “100-year event” or “1000-year event” to discuss the limits of our preparedness.

There are some situations that are so rare that in a cost-benefit analysis it is deemed not worthwhile to disrupt routines or expend resources in order to prevent them. For example, the United States has not stationed a large military force in International Falls because while there is a non-zero chance, there is a very small chance that Canada will attack us in a ground invasion from Ontario. The parlance is more commonly used for things like floods and earthquakes.

This month in baseball has seen several situations in which managers found themselves somewhat unprepared as games progressed to 16, 18, or even 20 innings. Having talked to a couple of the managers involved, it turns out that this is no surprise.

This month’s Marlins-Mets 20-inning game, Jays-Rangers and A’s-Yankees 18-inning games, and White Sox-Mariners 16-inning game are baseball’s 100-year floods. They are situations that would take a lot of strain to prepare for, in that you’d have to pass up platoon advantages, pinch-hitting spots, and other ways of trying to win games in nine innings in order to improve your chances in the unlikely event of an umpteenth inning.

So does a manager ever go in with a plan even in the back of his mind for what happens if that night’s game goes 18 innings?

“I don’t think you ever think about anything more than 10, 11 innings,” said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who found himself on the winning end against the Reds, who ran out of pitchers quickly and refused to use Aroldis Chapman in a tie game on the road. (Russell Carleton wrote last week about closer usage in extra innings.)

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Related Content:  Managing,  Extra-inning Games

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (06/20)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Skewed Left: Bayes and... (06/13)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: Searching... (06/27)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Pitchers ... (06/20)

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