A review of the extra-innings rule in the 2008 Olympic baseball tournament

The new extra-innings rule came into effect in five of the 36 games that made up the 2008 Olympic baseball tournament. Here I provide some statistics on its use in those games. In considering the tactics employed (i.e. sacrifice bunt or swing away), I am not interested in the bottom half of innings played under the rule, as the situation is essentially the same as normal in the bottom half of the 9th or a later inning, with the first two players up reaching base – in other words, it is standard baseball. The difference with the top half is that you are playing knowing that your opponents will be in a stronger-than-normal position in the bottom half of the inning. For the choice of the spot in the line-up at which to start the 11th inning, though, I am interested in both the top half and the bottom half of the inning, as neither team’s decision crops up in standard baseball.

 

Number of games played in which the rule came into play

  • China – 2 games
  • Chinese Taipei – 2 games
  • United States  - 2 games
  • Canada – 1 game
  • Cuba – 1 game
  • Japan – 1 game
  • Korea – 1 game
  • The Netherlands – 0 games

So no European teams have yet competed under the rule. The fact that some countries played in multiple games that went past the 10th inning allows us to explore if they approached the games differently. This is touched on below.

 

Innings played under the rule as batting team

  • Chinese Taipei – 4.0 innings
  • China – 2.2 innings
  • Canada – 2.0 innings
  • United States – 2.0 innings
  • Cuba – 1.0 inning
  • Japan – 1.0 inning
  • Korea – 0.0 innings (in 1 game)

Korea, the gold medallists, are yet to make an out under the new rule, while Chinese Taipei accumulated 4.0 innings as both of their games lasted untill the 12th inning.

 

Runs scored per inning under the rule

  • United States – 2.5 runs
  • Cuba – 2 runs
  • Japan – 2 runs
  • China – 1.88 runs
  • Chinese Taipei – 1.25 runs
  • Canada – 0 runs

Canada were the only country involved (with the exception of The Netherlands, who did not play a game in which the rule came into play) to not score a run. Korea scored 1 run in 0.0 innings, and so their runs per inning cannot be calculated.

 

Game lengths

  • 11 innings – 3 games
  • 12 innings – 2 games

So the marathon games for which the rule was intended to prevent were indeed avoiding, with no game going past the 12th inning, although it is perhaps a little surprising that two of the five contests were not terminated in the first extra inning.

 

Batter leading off 11th

  • #3 – 5 times (visitors 1 time; home team 4 times)
  • #2 – 3 times (visitors 2 times; home team 1 time)
  • #1 – 2 times (visitors 2 times; home team 0 times)

There was a tendency for the team batting second to lead off with the #3 hitter, while the team batting first preferred a spot higher up the line-up. Of course, we are dealing with a very small sample here, and so it is not wise to draw firm conclusions. Of the three teams playing multiple games under the ruling, two had turns as both visitors and the home team. China were one of these, opting for #3 as both the team batting first and the team batting second. The United States was the other such country, and they mixed their tactics up, going for #1 as the visitors but #2 when playing as the home team.

 

Tactic employed in top half of inning

  • Sacrifice bunt – 4 times
  • Swing away – 3 times

Only one country, Chinese Taipei, played as the visitors more than once. In their first game, they put their #2 hitter as lead-off and went for the sacrifice bunt in the 11th, and also went for the sacrifice bunt in the 12th inning (with #5 leading off). In the team’s second game, they again put their #2 hitter as lead-off and went for the sacrifice bunt in the 11th, but in the 12th decided to swing away (with #6 leading off).

 

Success rate of tactic in top half of decisive inning

  • Swing away – led to a win in 67% of games
  • Sacrifice bunt – led to a win in 50% of games

I do not think that the sacrifice bunt is all that shrewd in this situation, but while the numbers appear to support that, I would not want to use them to bolster my argument as the sample of games is far too small.

 

Full details of the five games

Chinese Taipei @ China, 15 August 2008, start time 10:30

Progress of score:

  • 3-3 after 10 innings
  • 3-3 after 11 innings
  • 8-7 to China after 12 innings (winning run scored with 2 outs) 

Tactics for visitors:

  • #2 leading off in 11th; sacrifice bunt in 11th; sacrifice bunt in 12th

Tactics for home team:

  • #3 leading off in 11th

 

Cuba @ United States, 15 August 2008, start time 11:30

Progress of score:

  • 3-3 after 10 innings
  • 5-4 to Cuba after 11 innings

Tactics for visitors:

  • #1 leading off in 11th; sacrifice bunt in 11th

 Tactics for home team:

  • #2 leading off in 11th

 

China @ Korea, 17 August 2008, start time 18:00

(Game completed on 17 August after suspension in middle of 6th inning on 14 August)

 Progress of score:

  • 0-0 after 10 innings
  • 1-0 to Korea after 11 innings (winning run scored with 0 outs)

 Tactics for visitors:

  • #3 leading off in 11th; swing away in 11th

 Tactics for home team:

  • #3 leading off in 11th 

 

Chinese Taipei @ Canada, 20 August 2008, start time 18:00

 Progress of score:

  • 5-5 after 10 innings
  • 5-5 after 11 innings
  • 6-5 to Chinese Taipei after 12 innings

 Tactics for visitors:

  • #2 leading off in 11th; sacrifice bunt in 11th; swing away in 12th

 Tactics for home team:

  • #3 leading off in 11th 

 

United States @ Japan, 20 August 2008, start time 19:00

Progress of score:

  • 0-0 after 10 innings
  • 4-2 to United States after 11 innings 

Tactics for visitors:

  • #1 leading off in 11th; swing away in 11th

Tactics for home team:

  • #3 leading off in 11th

 

3 Responses to A review of the extra-innings rule in the 2008 Olympic baseball tournament

  1. Matt Smith August 28, 2008 at 10:07 pm #

    As you say Joe, it’s a small sample size to work from, but there’s some interesting stuff in there nonetheless.

    The one limitation we have when looking at the play by play for these games is that we don’t know the qualities of the batters involved. The manager (you would hope) will match the situation with the player who has the best skills to execute the desired play. Maybe, for example, Chinese Taipei followed the traditional batting order thinking of putting a good bunter in the #2 spot? That would seem to match up with the evidence that they picked the #2 batter to sacrifice.

    The tactics employed are a fascinating part of the new rule, although there’s a part of me that thinks it just ends up being a crapshoot.

    The key point I think is that the IBAF wanted to introduce a rule to stop games going on and on and the evidence from these five games is that, on those grounds, the rule change was a success. Personally, I’m glad that it wasn’t needed to decide the semi-finals and bronze/gold medal games though.

  2. Joe Gray August 28, 2008 at 10:28 pm #

    Good point. With a huge sample, you would hope that individual differences would be swamped by the average, and so you could say that the #3 hitter was better than the #2 hitter for instance, assuming traditional line-up construction, but with what we have there is no real way of telling. Your point is particularly important since the line-up constructions by the time the game reaches its 11th inning will probably fit the traditional mould less than at the start of the game.

    I bet Canada A versus Canada B could have taken the game into the 13th inning, or perhaps even beyond.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. BaseballGB » Blog Archive » Olympic Baseball 2008 – In Review - September 26, 2009

    […] advantage or disadvantage depending on whether they are the home or away side (Note: Joe took a closer look at the extra innings rule on […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes