Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why Ties Suck In Baseball - 2010 Edition


Last year around this time, I posted a brief note on the minor league pennant race in Japan being decided with ties being ignored, which is stupid and unfair. This year, both NPB playoff races went to the wire, and again ties reared their ugly head.

Let's look at the Central League first. The Hanshin Tigers finished 2nd at 78-63-3, while the Yomiuri Giants were 79-64-1. If the simpletons who ran Japanese baseball were capable of understanding math, they would realize that these two records are identical in terms of percentage as ties should equal half a win. But they don't. Instead, ties are simply ignored. Yep, those games don't count in the standings. The stats do of course (although there is no winning or losing pitcher), but the game doesn't. The team's winning percentage is simply wins/(wins+losses).

So the benefit goes to the team that wins less games and ties more. This is because they are above .500, so going 0-0-2 (which doesn't affect the winning percentage) is better than going 1-1-0 (which reduces it slightly). Absurd. Wins are the object of the game and you should be rewarded for winning, not rewarded for avoiding a loss by grinding out a tie. (I should point out that if you are under .500, then the team that has more wins and fewer ties does get the better record).

It gets worse in the Pacific League. The Softbank Hawks and Seibu Lions played to a virtual tie for first. Softbank went 76-63-5, while Seibu won two more, lost two more, and tied four less for a 78-65-1 record. Of course, Softbank gets the title while Seibu was forced to enter the second stage of the Climax Series, which they promptly lost to Lotte in 2 quick games. So you have the team with the most wins in the league knocked out of the playoffs after just two losses. Stupid.

I know they'll never do away with ties here, but they need to incorporate them in the final standings. Stop rewarding failure!

Protracted Post-Season

While I'm ranting about the stupidity of the way the NPB runs itself, I'll make a brief note on the length of the post-season here. The PL finished their season on October 1st, but didn't play their first playoff game until the 9th. That was game 1 of the aforementioned Lions-Lotte series, which finished on October 10th. It's then 4 more days until the second stage of the Climax Series begins. That means two playoff games in two weeks! How thrilling.

Meanwhile, the CL finished their season on the 10th, but don't start their playoffs until the 16th. Fortunately, they are smart enough that the second stage begins on the 20th, so the first stage winner doesn't get time to reset their rotation.

In fact, that's what I find most annoying about these extended breaks before a playoff series. Baseball is a team game and the most important part of the team is the pitching rotation. If you have 8 days off before a series, you can set up your rotation anyway you want it. Teams like Lotte, who fought until the final day of the season to sneak into the playoffs, are not punished for their weakness. They had ample time to rest and prepare for Seibu, who they then defeated.

In the majors, there are 2 days off before the playoffs, and these are reserved for tiebreakers. Teams that fight to the finish can't afford to adjust their end-of-season rotation to rest their best starters for game 1, so they are at a disadvantage, which is fair.

Texas clinched early and was able to set Cliff Lee for game 1 and now game 5. But they couldn't polish off Tampa quickly, and so whoever wins that series will have a slight disadvantage going to the ALCS as the Yankees are now able to set their rotation the way they want it.

It just baffles me that the NPB devalues their regular season so much, first by creating the stupid playoff system, and then extending it for so long. I guess they don't have any real competition in the sports world here so they can afford to lollygag their way through October.

NHL GameCenter Live

Fortunately for me, the NHL season has started and I've subscribed to the GameCenter Live package again. It is definitely worth the $20 a month. The quality has improved with steams up to 3000 kbps available. All games are shown live and the majority are exciting and close. Nearly every game I've watched has been decided by one goal; one exception being Toronto's 5-1 drubbing of Ottawa which was an immensely enjoyable event for me. Generally though, the NHL is the most exciting league on the go right now. I am a big MLB fan, but it wasn't a particularly exciting season and the playoffs are again illustrating the difference between the haves and have nots. The NFL and NBA are threatened with work stoppages next year; in both cases the product on the field doesn't live up to the hype. Still, it's hype that sells in sports, so the NHL will continue to be a second-tier game.

Next Up

I've got a part-time temporary job doing research and translation for an upcoming sporting event. This keeps me at home during the day, so I won't be attending many games during October. Other than some futsal this weekend, it'll be quiet until November. But check back on occasion as I'm increasingly annoyed with the world of sports both here and there and will probably use this blog as an outlet.

Best,

Sean

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