Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Ties Suck in Baseball - Third Annual Edition


The Japanese baseball season is coming to a close and yet again I am forced to write a post about how ties are used stupidly in the NPB. Of course, ties should never be employed in baseball. A long extra-inning game is fun to watch as a fan, but it also hurts those teams with poor bullpen depth, forcing them to manage subsequent games differently. Having no set time is another aspect that makes baseball so intriguing and unique - the possibility that a game may last forever. Sadly, that possibility is not even on the table in Japan. I know when I reach the park, I won't be seeing any more than 10 or 12 or whatever innings limit is set that season. There are obviously some good reasons for that, particularly related to fans needing to get home on trains which stop around midnight, so I won't belabor this point any longer.

The point that I will belabor though is that ties should not be ignored in the standings. Check out the battle for 3rd place in the Pacific League:

Seibu 68-67-9 0.503703
Orix 69-68-7 0.503649

According to Yomiuri (yes, the owners of the hated Giants) "Orix had 69 wins, but its .5036 winning percentage was one-thousandth of a point behind Seibu's." Actually, the difference was 1/18,495. Note that in Japan, the winning percentage is calculated by excluding ties. Those games simply don't count in the standings. So Seibu won 68 out of 135 games, while Orix won 69 of 137. When you multiply 135x137, you get 18,495.

So Seibu are rewarded with a playoff berth despite winning fewer games than Orix. Interestingly, Seibu won more games than Softbank last year but finished second because of this same silly rule. In these cases, a 1-game playoff would be the fair and fan-friendly thing to do.

I should point out that after the earthquake, some tie games were called after 9 innings to save electricity. This resulted in a large number of ties (56 compared to 16 last year) and only two teams managed to win more than half their games. Those two squads (Chunichi and Softbank) should be facing off in the Nippon Series, instead we get two extra weeks of pedestrian teams playing. The only bright spot is that Yakult (the team I cheer for, who choked away the pennant with a dreadful finish) will be hosting those hated Giants in the first round of the playoffs and it would be wonderful if they could knock them out. (11/1 Update: Swallows won 2-1! Now they move on to face the Dragons. In the PL, Seibu swept Nippon Ham and Darvish-mania may hit MLB next year.)

Regardless of that outcome though, the fact remains that ties are ignored in the standings. This is just plain stupid and I hope the NPB finds a better way to deal with them in the future.

Best,

Sean

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