Yesterday, I wrote about a new hypothetical rule in MLB that would change extra innings by starting each inning with a runner on second. Without any real games being played yet (Spring Training starts on Feb 25th!), I thought it’d be fun to try and simulate some games with this rule in effect. Does it change the winner? Does it save any meaningful amount of time? Let’s find out!
The Blue Jays had fifteen extra-inning games in 2016 – thirteen in the regular season, and two in the postseason. They won six of them and lost nine. Their record in extra innings was 1-6 on the road, and 5-3 at home (3-3 in the regular season).
Both postseason games went in the Jays’ favour and clinched their respective series – would that have happened with the man-on-second rule? Also, let’s not forget that the 19-inning Canada Day game was decided by a solo home run off a position player pitching. Had the ‘runner on 2nd’ rule been in place at that time, would we have been deprived of Ryan Goins‘ reaction as he escaped a bases-loaded situation unscathed? (Spoiler alert: we would have)
For the sake of this experiment, I will assume that everything that follows happened exactly as it did in real life (the pressure of the runner in scoring position didn’t get to the batter, or cause the pitcher to balk; the manager doesn’t suddenly decide to bunt or use a pinch-hitter, etc.).
Additionally, in the interest of keeping the batting order consistent with reality, I’ve also invented a pair of fictional pinch-runners – the Blue Jays’ player is named Steve, their opposition’s, Tom – to be inserted as the runner on 2nd each inning. Steve and Tom are average runners, meaning they will not steal any bases and will only advance on a groundout in a force situation. Obviously, if they were faster, they’d be more likely to score and therefore end the game even earlier. The presence of Steve and Tom might also alter some plays made by the fielders, but that’s obviously too many variables and you can’t truly predict baseball anyways.
Using Baseball Savant, I discovered that last year, in situations where there was a guy on 2nd and nobody in front of him, he scored 60.2% of the time on a single. Of course, this actually depends on a pile of factors such as the location of the batted ball, how deep it goes, how good the fielder’s arm is, the runner’s speed, how big a leadoff he had, etc. But taking the majority into account, I decided to make Steve and Tom capable of scoring from second on all singles that get through to the outfield. They’re also capable of scoring from third on fly ball outs to the outfield, which would then be considered sac flies.
April 20th – at Baltimore (10 innings)
In real life: the game was tied 3-3 and the Blue Jays got two men on base in the 10th but couldn’t score. The Orioles walked it off, 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th on a passed ball. Game time: 3:22
In the simulation: Justin Smoak drives in Steve in the top of the 10th with 1 out, then Ryan Goins grounds into a double play. In the bottom of the inning, Tom scores to tie the game on a Caleb Joseph double, then Joseph advances to 3d on a Joey Rickard single, and scores on a passed ball to walk it off.
Result: Same result, Orioles win, but with the score 5-4 instead.
May 3rd – vs Texas (10 innings)
In real life: Justin Smoak tied things 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th, then hit a 2-run homer in the 10th to walk things off for the Jays, 3-1. Game time: 3:25
In the simulation: Three straight outs leave Tom stranded at second for the Rangers. In the bottom of the inning, Edwin Encarnacion singles to left and brings Steve home to walk things off, two batters before Smoak gets to hit his home run.
Result: Jays still win, 2-1, but only about three minutes get cut off the time.
May 11th – at San Francisco (13 innings)
In real life: Tied 4-4 after the 9th, the Giants loaded the bases in the 10th but did not score, then walked it off in the 13th after Ryan Tepera walked Buster Posey on 4 pitches with the bases loaded. Game time: 4:28
Result: The Giants win, with the same score of 5-4, but three innings earlier. Saves about an hour of game time.
May 14th – at Texas (10 innings)
In the simulation: Jose Bautista drives in Steve with a 2-out double in the top of the 10th to pull ahead, 6-5. When Stubbs homers in the bottom of the inning, he brings in Tom with him for a walkoff.
Result: Rangers still win, 7-6, at the same time as they did originally.
May 19th – at Minnesota (11 innings)
Result: Jays still win, still 3-2, an inning earlier, which saves about 20 minutes.
May 29th – vs Boston (11 innings)
In real life: They were tied at 3-3 and nobody scored in the 10th. Boston then scored twice in the top of the 11th on two walks, a double and an RBI groundout to win 5-3. Game time: 4:07
In the simulation: Travis Shaw drives in Tom on a single in the 10th, then Darwin Barney drives in Steve in the bottom half to tie it 4-4. In the 11th, two consecutive walks force Tom to third, and he scores on a wild pitch. Dustin Pedroia drives in a run with a double, and Xander Bogaerts has an RBI groundout before Travis Shaw lines out to end the inning. In the bottom of the 11th, three straight outs leave Steve at second base.
Result: Red Sox win anyways, 7-4. Time is the same.
Stay tuned for the rest of the season, which will be posted later today!
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