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February 20, 2017

Flu-Like Symptoms

Fit to be Tied

by Rob Mains


I’m going to talk about games that last longer than nine innings. Don’t worry, this isn’t another article about putting a baserunner on second base in extra innings.

I already wrote about that proposal, which caused a furor on the internet. I pointed out that extra-inning games have been in decline lately. And last week, our Russell A. Carleton looked at the proposal from pretty much every imaginable angle. So I’m not going to revisit it.

But FanGraphs columnist, Baseball Prospectus 2016 Annual Pirates essay writer, and Big Data Baseball author Travis Sawchik had another suggestion: Why not just call games tied after 12 innings ties?

I’m not going to comment on the merits of Sawchik’s proposal. I imagine that, if proposed by MLB, it’d be met with the same reception the runner-on-second proposal received. Rather, I thought his idea raised an intriguing question: What if it were a baseball rule?

Ties in baseball are different than those in other sports. In the NFL, ties are counted as half a win and half a loss. In the NHL, teams tied at the end of regulation play an overtime period and, if necessary, a shootout. Teams get two points for a win but teams that are tied at the end of regulation and subsequently lose get one point. In soccer's English Premier League, teams get three points for a win and one for a tie.

In baseball, ties are not included in the standings. Player statistics count, but the game is not part of the team’s won-lost record. Last year, the umpires called the September 29 game between the Cubs and Pirates after six innings with the teams tied 1-1. The Cubs and Pirates both played 162 games, but the Cubs’ final record of 103-58 and Pirates’ 78-83 excluded the September 29 game. Sometimes tie games are made up later in the season, resulting in oddities like teammates Billy Williams and Ron Santo each appearing in 164 games for the 1965 Cubs, whose official record of 72-90 sums to just 162 games.

As you might expect, ties have become less common in baseball, partly because better weather forecasts can prevent games from starting under conditions likely to turn worse, but mostly because the setting sun is no longer an impediment to play. Here is a graph of tie games per season since 1913.

Since the turn of the millennium, there have been just six ties: One each in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, one in 2005, and one in 2016. That’s it. If games still going after 12 innings were declared ties, well, there’d be a lot more ties. Last season, 32 games were tied after 12 innings, so there’d be 32 more ties.

For purposes of this experiment, I’m going to assume that every game tied after 12 innings ended as a tie, with no makeup game. Consistent with baseball rules, those games would be excluded from the standings. It’s like they didn’t exist.

So, would a 12-inning tie rule, as suggested by Sawchik, change baseball standings? As it turns out, yes it would, quite frequently. There have been 109 league or divisional races since 1913 (41 in the 66 years of two league champions, 68 in 48 years of divisional play) in which the order of finish would change if games tied after 12 innings ended that way. That’s a lot, more than one per season.

But in most cases, the changes are pretty minor. Take, for example, the 2015 American League East. Baltimore was third at 81-81, with Tampa Bay one game behind at 80-82. But the Orioles played three games that went 13 innings, going 2-1 in them. Erasing those games as 12-inning ties would drop their record to 79-80. The Rays played four games that lasted 13 innings (neither team played any games longer), with a 1-3 record. By making those games ties, Tampa Bay’s record becomes 79-79. So if games were declared ties after 12 innings, Tampa Bay would’ve finished ahead of the Orioles in the standings, with a .500 winning percentage compared to Baltimore’s .497. (In all cases, I determined standings by winning percentage.)

The list of every instance in which a league or division’s standings would have changed if there were 12-inning ties is a long one. As I said, in most cases, it’s not that significant. But I did want to point out the really interesting examples—the seasons in which 12-inning ties would’ve affected who played into October.

Here are the postseasons that would’ve been affected if baseball games were declared ties after 12 innings. In the interest of brevity, I’m going to limit this to league and divisional championships—no wild cards.

  • 1946 National League: The Cardinals and Dodgers tied for the pennant. The Cardinals swept the best-of-three playoff. With 12-inning ties, the Cardinals’ 95-57 record would have topped the Dodgers’ 93-58, eliminating the playoff.
  • 1948 American League: The Indians and Red Sox tied for the pennant. The Indians won tie-breaker. With 12-inning ties, the Red Sox, at 96-58, would have finished ahead of the Indians at 93-58.
  • 1951 National League: The Dodgers and Giants tied. The Giants famously won the best-of-three playoff, 2-1. With 12-inning ties, the Dodgers would have finished 94-57 and the Giants 95-58, giving the Dodgers the pennant on winning percentage (.623-.621).
  • 1959 National League: The Dodgers and Braves tied, and the Dodgers swept the best-of-three playoff. With 12-inning ties, there would not have been a tie; the Dodgers’ 83-66 record would have lagged the Braves’ 84-66.
  • 1962 National League: The Dodgers and Giants tied. The Giants won the best-of-three playoff, 2-1. The Dodgers were 5-1 in games lasting more than 12 innings that year and would have finished three full games behind San Francisco without those games, so no playoff.
  • 1964 National League: In one of the most famous late-season collapses, the Cardinals, at 93-69, slipped past the Phillies, who blew a 6.5 game lead with 25 games to play, going 9-16. They finished 92-70, tied with the Reds for second. But the Cardinals were 1-0 in games lasting over 12 innings, the Reds 1-1, and the Phillies 1-2. Remove those games in the Phillies would’ve finished percentage points ahead of the Cardinals and half a game up on the Reds.
  • 1978 American League East: The Yankees and Red Sox tied, with the Yankees winning the playoff. With 12-inning ties, the Yankees would have finished 97-72 and the Red Sox 96-72, there would have been no playoff, and nobody would remember Bucky Dent.
  • 1980 National League East: The Phillies finished 91-71, one game better than the Expos, but were 5-1 in games lasting over 12 innings while Montreal was 2-1. With 12-inning ties, the Expos would’ve finished half a game ahead of Philadelphia and Jonah Keri’s book would have had another chapter.
  • 1980 National League West: The Astros and Dodgers tied, with the Astros winning the playoff. With 12-inning ties, the Dodgers would have finished 91-69, ahead of Houston at 90-69.
  • 1989 American League East: The 89-73 Blue Jays were 5-0 in games over 12 innings. The 87-75 Orioles were 2-2. With no games over 12 innings, the Orioles would have taken the pennant.
  • 1990 American League East: Flipping their luck from the previous year, the Blue Jays, who finished two games behind Boston, were 0-4 in games over 12 innings. The Red Sox were 1-0. Without those games, Toronto would’ve won the East four straight years, 1990-93.
  • 1991 National League West: The Braves finished a game ahead of the Dodgers, but excluding the teams’ record in games lasting over 12 inning, they were tied, necessitating a playoff game.
  • 1994 National League Central: Of course, there wasn’t a postseason this year, but the 66-48 Reds, half a game ahead of the 66-49 Astros when the season stopped, would’ve trailed Houston by a game excluding Houston’s 0-1 record and Cincinnati’s 2-0 in games of over 12 innings.
  • 1995 American League West: The Mariners and Angels tied, with the Mariners winning the playoff. With 12-inning ties, Seattle, at 77-65, would have finished percentage points ahead of the 78-66 Angels.
  • 2001 National League Central: The Astros and Cardinals tied for first at 93-69, with Houston getting the division and St. Louis the wild card as Houston took the season series. With 12-inning ties, St. Louis, which was 0-2 in games over 12 innings, would’ve taken the crown, relegating Houston to the wild card.
  • 2001 National League West: Arizona, at 92-70, finished two games ahead of San Francisco, but would’ve been tied at 90-69 excluding games over 12 innings, with a 9-9 record head-to-head. (Arizona won the series, 10-9, but one of those wins was an 18-inning game.) So there would’ve been a playoff.
  • 2003 National League Central: The Cubs finished a game ahead of Houston but were 4-0 in games over 12 innings while Houston was 0-4. Take away those games, Houston would have won, and we would have never heard the word Bartman. So there’s that.
  • 2006 National League West: The Dodgers and Padres tied for first, with the Padres taking the division on head-to-head play and the Dodgers playing the wild card game. Neither team did well in games lasting more than 12 innings, but the Dodgers’ 1-4 was worse than the Padres’ 1-2, so eliminating those games would have flipped the teams’ postseason roles.
  • 2008 American League Central: The White Sox and Twins tied, with the White Sox winning the playoff. They would’ve won the regular season with 12-inning ties, 85-72 compared to Minnesota’s 87-75, eliminating the playoff game.
  • 2009 American League Central: The Twins and Tigers tied, with the Twins winning the playoff. The postseason wouldn’t have changed, but it’s worth noting that this is the lone playoff that would’ve been necessary if there were 12-inning times, as the two teams would’ve finished with identical 85-75 records.
  • 2013 American League Central: The Tigers finished a game ahead of the Indians at 93-69 but were buoyed by a 3-0 record in games lasting more than 12 innings compared to Cleveland’s 1-1. Without those games, the Indians would’ve finished a half game ahead, with Detroit as the wild card.

I’m not trying to make a point here. The chances of a rule change calling for games ending as ties after 12 innings are less than, well, extra innings starting with a runner on second base. But I thought Sawchik had an interesting proposal, one worth exploring. The conclusion is that calling games ties after 12 innings would change the overall standings in most seasons and, in the wild card era, would be as likely as not to have an impact on the teams playing in the postseason. But it’s not going to happen. I think.

The complete list of seasons in which the standings would have changed:

Season

League

Actual Standings

Standings with 12-inning ties

1914

American

NYY T6, CHW T6

NYY 6, CHW 7

1915

National

CHC 4, PIT 5, STL 6

PIT 4, STL 5, CHC 6

1916

National

CIN T7, STL T7

STL 7, CIN 8

1918

National

BRO 5, PHI 6

PHI 5, BRO 6

1919

American

SLB T5, BOS T5

BOS 5, SLB 6

1920

National

CHC T5, STL T5

STL 5, CHC 6

1921

American

SLB 3, WSH 4

WSH 3, SLB 4

1922

American

CLE 4, CHW 5

CHW 4, CLE 5

1922

National

PIT T3, STL T3

PIT 3, STL 4

1923

American

WSH 4, SLB 5, PHA 6, CHW 7

SLB 4, WSH 5, CHW 6, PHA 7

1925

American

SLB 3, DET 4, CLE 6, NYY 7

DET 3, SLB 4, CLE T6, NYY T6

1927

National

STL 2, NYG 3

NYG 2, STL 3

1928

National

CIN 5, BRO 6

BRO 5, CIN 6

1933

American

CLE 4, DET 5

DET 4, CLE 5

1935

American

WSH 6, SLB 7

SLB 6, WSH 7

1936

American

CHW 4, CLE 5

CLE 4, CHW 5

1936

National

CHC T2, STL T2

STL 2, CHC 3

1940

National

CHC 5, NYG 6

NYG 5, CHC 6

1941

American

CLE T4, DET T4, SLB T6, WSH T6

CLE 4, DET 5, SLB 6, WSH 7

1942

National

PIT 5, CHC 6

CHC 5, PIT 6

1944

American

CLE T5, PHA T5, CHW 7

PHA 5, CHW 6, CLE 7

1947

National

PHI T7, PIT T7

PIT 7, PHI 8

1948

American

CLE 1, BOS 2

BOS 1, CLE 2

1949

National

BSN 4, NYG 5

NYG 4, BSN 5

1950

American

BOS 3, CLE 4

BOS T3, CLE T3

1951

National

NYG 1, BRO 2

BRO 1, NYG 2

1954

National

PHI 4, CIN 5

CIN 4, PHI 5

1956

National

NYG 6, PIT 7

PIT 6, NYG 7

1957

American

BAL 5, CLE 6

BAL T5, CLE T5

1957

National

CHC T7, PIT T7

CHC 7, PIT 8

1958

American

BAL 6, KCA 7

KCA 6, BAL 7

1958

National

CHC T5, STL T5

CHC 5, STL 6

1959

National

LAD 1, MLN 2, CHC T5, CIN T5

MLN 1, LAD 2, CHC 5, CIN 6

1960

American

WSH 5, DET 6

DET 5, WSH 6

1961

American

KCA T9, WSA T9

KCA 9, WSA 10

1962

American

LAA 3, DET 4

DET 3, LAA 4

1964

American

CLE T6, MIN T6

MIN 6, CLE 7

1964

National

STL 1, PHI T2, CIN T2, LAD T6, PIT T6

PHI 1, STL 2, CIN 3, LAD 6, PIT 7

1966

American

CHW 4, CLE 5, WSA 8, BOS 9, NYY 10

CLE 4, CHW 5, BOS 8, NYY 9, WSA 10

1967

American

BAL T6, WSA T6, CLE 8, NYY 9

WSA 6, BAL 7, CLE T8, NYY T8

1968

American

CLE 3, BOS 4, CAL T8, CHW T8

BOS 3, CLE 4, CAL 8, CHW 9

1968

National

CHC 3, CIN 4

CIN 3, CHC 4

1969

AL East

BOS 3, WSA 4

WSA 3, BOS 4

1969

NL East

PIT 3, STL 4

STL 3, PIT 4

1970

NL West

LAD 2, SFG 3

SFG 2, LAD 3

1971

NL East

CHC T3, NYM T3

CHC 3, NYM 4

1971

NL West

CIN T4, HOU T4

CIN 4, HOU 5

1972

AL West

MIN 3, KCR 4

KCR 3, MIN 4

1972

NL West

HOU T2, LAD T2

LAD 2, HOU 3

1973

AL East

MIL 5, CLE 6

CLE 5, MIL 6

1974

AL West

MIN 3, CHW 4

CHW 3, MIN 4

1975

AL West

TEX 3, MIN 4, CHW 5

MIN 3, CHW 4, TEX 5

1975

NL East

NYM T3, SL T3, CHC T5, MON T5

NYM 3, SL 4, CHC 5, MON 6

1976

AL East

BOS 3, CLE 4

CLE 3, BOS 4

1976

AL West

CAL T4, TEX T4

TEX 4, CAL 5

1977

AL East

BAL T2, BOS T2

BAL 2, BOS 3

1977

AL West

SEA 6, OAK 7

OAK 6, SEA 7

1978

AL West

CAL T2, TEX T2

TEX 2, CAL 3

1980

AL East

BOS 3, DET 4

BOS T3, DET T3

1980

NL East

PHI 1, MON 2

MON 1, PHI 2

1980

NL West

HOU 1, LAD 2

LAD 1, HOU 2

1981

AL East

BAL 2, DET T3, NYY T3, BOS 5

BAL T2, BOS T2, NYY 4, DET 5

1981

NL East

MON 2, PHI 3

PHI 2, MON 3

1982

AL East

NYY 5, CLE T6, TOR T6

TOR 5, NYY 6, CLE 7

1983

AL East

DET 2, NYY 3

NYY 2, DET 3

1983

AL West

CAL T5, MIN T5

CAL 5, MIN 6

1984

AL West

CAL T2, MIN T2

MIN 2, CAL 3

1984

NL West

ATL T2, HOU T2

ATL 2, HOU 3

1985

AL East

DET 3, BAL 4

BAL 3, DET 4

1985

AL West

MIN T4, OAK T4

MIN 4, OAK 5

1985

NL West

HOU T3, SDP T3

HOU 3, SDP 4

1986

AL East

DET 3, TOR 4

TOR 3, DET 4

1986

AL West

KCR T3, OAK T3

KCR 3, OAK 4

1986

NL East

STL 3, MON 4

MON 3, STL 4

1987

AL West

CAL T6, TEX T6

TEX 6, CAL 7

1987

NL East

PHI T4, PIT T4

PIT 4, PHI 5

1988

AL East

DET 2, MIL T3, TOR T3

MIL 2, DET 3, TOR 4

1988

NL East

CHC 4, STL 5

STL 4, CHC 5

1988

NL West

SDP 3, SFG 4

SFG 3, SDP 4

1989

AL East

TOR 1, BAL 2

BAL 1, TOR 2

1990

AL East

BOS 1, TOR 2, CLE 4, BAL 5

TOR 1, BOS 2, BAL T4, CLE T4

1990

NL East

CHC T4, PHI T4

PHI 4, CHC 5

1990

NL West

HOU T4, SDP T4

SDP 4, HOU 5

1991

AL East

BOS T2, DET T2, MIL 4

BOS 2, MIL 3, DET 4

1991

AL West

KCR 6, CAL 7

CAL 6, KCR 7

1991

NL East

PHI T3, CHC T3, NYM 5

NYM 3, PHI 4, CHC 5

1991

NL West

ATL 1, LAD 2, SFG 4, CIN 5

ATL T1, LAD T1, CIN T4, SFG T4

1992

AL East

CLE T4, NYY T4

NYY 4, CLE 5

1992

AL West

CAL T5, KCR T5

KCR 5, CAL 6

1993

AL East

BAL T3,DET T3

DET 3, BAL 4

1993

AL West

CAL T5, MIN T5

CAL 5, MIN 6

1994

AL Central

MIN 4, MIL 5

MIL T4, MIN T4

1994

NL Central

CIN 1, HOU 2, PIT T3, STL T3

HOU 1, CIN 2, STL 3, PIT 4

1995

NL East

NYM T2, PHI T2

NYM 2, PHI 3

2001

NL Central

HOU T1, STL T1

STL 1, HOU 2

2001

NL West

ARI 1, SFG 2

ARI T1, SFG T1

2003

NL Central

CHC 1, HOU 2

HOU 1, CHC 2

2005

NL East

FLA T3, NYM T3

FLA 3, NYM 4

2006

AL East

CLE T4, KCR T4

KCR 4, CLE 5

2006

NL West

LAD T1, SDP T1, SFG 3, ARI T4, COL T5

LAD 1, SDP 2, COL 3, SFG 4, ARI 5

2008

AL Central

CHW 1, MIN 2

MIN 1, CHW 2

2008

NL West

COL 2, SDP 3

SDP 2, COL 3

2009

AL Central

CLE T4, KCR T4

KCR 4, CLE 5

2011

AL Central

CLE 2, CHW 3

CHW 2, CLE 3

2012

AL East

BAL 2, TBR 3

TBR 2, BAL 3

2013

AL Central

DET 1, CLE 2

CLE 1, DET 2

2013

AL East

BAL T3, NYY T3

BAL 3, NYY 4

2013

NL West

SDP T3, SFG T3

SFG 3, SDP 4

2014

NL East

ATL T2, NYM T2, MIA 4

ATL 2, MIA 3, NYM 4

2015

AL East

BAL 3, TBR 4

TBR 3, BAL 4

2016

AL East

BAL T2, TOR T2

TOR 2, BAL 3

Rob Mains is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

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