Earlier this week,. Among them is an extra-innings tiebreaker rule in the All-Star Game. Beginning in the 10th inning, each team will start each half-inning with a runner at second base. A similar tiebreaker rule was used during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
The All-Star Game no longer decides home field advantage in the World Series, so it is essentially a meaningless exhibition. Who cares if they use the extra-innings tiebreaker rule in a meaningless exhibition? MLB wants to avoid another embarrassing situation like in 2002, when both sides ran out of players and the game was ruled a tie after 11 innings.
The extra-innings tiebreaker rule hasn't made its way to regular season games yet and my guess is it won't anytime soon. Personally, one of my favorite things about baseball is that every game is played until there's a winner. There's no clock to run out and no gimmick shootout (I say that as an NHL fan!) to decide the game. Play until someone wins, no matter how long it takes.
That all said, extra innings can be a drag. There is a point where the game goes from exciting to lame and everyone just wants to get it over with, especially the players. As such, Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija recently proposed incorporating ties into baseball. Ties and a points system. Here's what he told MLB.com's Maria Guardado:
"I just think you can change to a point system," Samardzija said. "I don't think we need to play extra-inning games. You want to keep the game times down. Just end them in a tie. Everyone gets one point like in the Premier League. Winning gets three points and just end it at nine. We're playing 162 games. Over that course of games, you should be able to tell who the best team is. It makes the ninth inning exciting all the time.
"And really, who wants to go out there and play 15 innings? The relievers don't want it. The position players don't want it. The managers don't want it because then they got to move rosters around the next day. Obviously, every game is important now with the extra Wild Card. I just think it keeps every game important again and just kind of eliminates some innings that a lot of guys don't really want to play. But again, that's a little wild for people, I think."
Let me start by saying MLB is not going to add ties to the standings anytime soon. Baseball is far more likely to use an extra-innings tiebreaker rule in regular season games than have them end in a tie. Samardzija's comments are nothing more than one player's musings. As far as we know, neither MLB nor the MLBPA are pushing for ties.
Last season there were 216 extra-innings games among the 2,431 regular season games played throughout baseball, or 8.8 percent. On average, that's one tie every 11 games or so for each team. On one hand, is adding ties to avoid something that happens once every 11 games even necessary? On the other hand, if MLB adds ties, will anyone care if they only happen once every 11 games or so?
Anyway, I like to stay open to new ideas, and I found Samardzija's suggestion interesting enough that I thought it was worthwhile to go back and recalculate the 2018 standings using his points system. Replace each team's extra-inning wins and losses with ties, add up the points, and see what happens. Let's take a look, shall we?
2018 Extra Innings Record
Red Sox (ALE winner)
Astros (ALW winner)
Indians (ALC winner)
Using Samardzija's points system, the 2018 AL postseason field is unchanged. The Yankees would host the Athletics for the Wild Card Game, with the winner moving on to face the Red Sox in the ALDS. The Astros would host the Indians in the other ALDS. Also, the bottom of the standings are unchanged. The Orioles still would've secured the No. 1 pick in the 2019 amateur draft using Samardzija's system.
It is worth pointing out the Rays finished only four points behind the A's for the second wild-card spot. That's not even a two-win difference. The Rays finished seven games behind Oakland last year but the race would've been much closer with Samardzija's points system because Tampa had more regulation wins. Who knows how the race shakes out if both the Rays and A's had something to play for in the final weekend of the regular season?
The AL postseason races were fairly boring last year. The matchups were set a week before the season ended. The points system might have given us a nice little race for the second wild-card spot, otherwise not much would have changed. The Red Sox, Astros, and Yankees were still the class of the league with the Indians and A's not far behind.
(Also, look at the Mariners! They went 14-1 in extra-inning games and 36-21 in one-run games in 2018. Many of those coin flip games went their way last season. Give GM Jerry Dipoto & Co. credit for realizing they were not a true talent 89-win team and needed to make changes.)
2018 Extra Innings Record
Brewers (NLC winner)
Rockies (NLW winner)
Braves (NLE winner)
* The Pirates and Marlins only played 161 games last year because they had a game rained out, and the makeup was scheduled for the day after the end of the regular season. Because the game had no impact on the postseason picture, it was not played. That is standard MLB procedure. The game wouldn't have mattered in the Samardzija points standings either.
We have a new NL West winner thanks to Samardzija's point system. Last year the Dodgers and Rockies finished the 162-game regular season with identical 91-71 records, then Los Angeles won a Game 163 tiebreaker to win the division. The Rockies played fewer extra innings games and had more regulation wins, however, so they would've finished with more points and thus been awarded the division title without a tiebreaker.
Also, the Brewers and Cubs played a Game 163 tiebreaker to decide the NL Central race, and that would've been unnecessary with the points system. The Brewers had more regulation wins and thus more points. They won the Game 163 tiebreaker and thus the division title. With the points system, Game 163 wouldn't have been necessary. This would have been the NL postseason field under the Samardzija points system:
- Wild Card Game: Dodgers at Cubs (instead of Rockies at Cubs)
- NLDS1: Wild Card Game winner at Brewers (same)
- NLDS2: Braves at Rockies (instead of Braves at Dodgers)
Do the Dodgers still advance to their second straight World Series if they have to go through the Wild Card Game and then a best-of-five against the Brewers? Maybe! The Cubs completely stopped hitting late last year, and the Dodgers were up 3-2 on the Brewers through five games in the NLCS, so maybe the Rockies winning the NL West under the points system wouldn't have changed the end result. I reckon the Rockies and their fans wish they could've found out though.
More so than any other spot, each game impacts the next in baseball. Play 12 innings one night and it affects how the manager uses his bullpen and even sets his lineup the next day. Ties would have a domino effect on other games. Furthermore, with ties, managers no longer have to worry about extra innings, and that means they can ...
- ... more aggressively use their bullpen in innings 1-9.
- ... pinch-run for a big bat in the eighth or ninth inning of a close game.
- ... pinch-hit (or pinch-run) for the catcher more often, and even the backup catcher in some situations.
Like I said earlier, one of my favorite things about baseball is that every game is played until there's a winner, no matter how long it takes. Extra-innings are so ingrained in baseball and baseball history that I don't believe MLB would seriously consider adding ties, even if the MLBPA pushes for them. A regular season extra-innings tiebreaker rule like the one now in play for the All-Star Game is more likely, and even that seems to be a ways away.