Home International baseball New game-shortening rule makes debut

New game-shortening rule makes debut

by Joe Gray

Yesterday saw the inaugural implementation of the new game-shortening rule, in a Pool B game between Puerto Rico and Chinese Taipei at the IBAF AAA World Junior Championships, a tournament that I’ve been following a lot more closely than I would have if the new rule were not in place.

The significance of the game was that the winner avoided a quarter-final clash with the top team from Pool A, the US. Chinese Taipei, batting second, took a 1-run lead in the 4th inning and managed to defend that narrow margin all the way until the top of the 9th, when Jan Vasquez drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly. The game remained tied at 1-1 through 10 innings, which meant that the teams would bat in the next inning with runners automatically placed on first and second base.

My attempts to reconstruct what happened in the 11th from the box score have led me to a disconcerting conclusion. Looking at the Puerto Rico batting statistics, the top two spots and bottom two spots in the line-up amassed 4 plate appearances each, while the middle five spots had 5 plate appearances. This, in itself, is not the problem, as it can be happily explained by the new rule (which teams can use to skip spots in the order between the 10th and 11th innings). The problem is more that five players came to bat in an inning which started with two players already on base, yet no runs were scored. The only explanation I have for this is that the players who were placed automatically on base were charged with a time at bat. Since this unfairly deflates their batting averages, this is totally wrong in my opinion. (If my interpretation of the box score is erroneous, then I will happily retract this comment).

Unlike Puerto Rico, Chinese Taipei were able to score in the 11th inning, with the game-ending run crossing the plate after one out. Perhaps no-one was more relieved than Che-Ming Su, the winning team’s pitcher, who had hurled all 11 innings (without conceding an earned run), although I suspect that Dr Harvey W Schiller, IBAF President, was also fairly happy that the rule did its job on debut.

For the record (in case you ever find yourself in a pub quiz with a round on international junior baseball), the first players to be automatically put on base were Kevi Fontanez and Jobdua Moralez, while the first player to come to bat was Xavier Lopez.

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Joe Gray August 7, 2008 - 10:40 pm

I contacted IBAF headquarters about my concerns described above but have not had a reply. This was the only game in the tournament to go past 10 innings (where the new rule kicks in), but the Olympic baseball tournament is just round the corner, where we might see the new rule in action once more. If so, I’ll be very keen to see how they handle the stats.

The rule is challenging the very core of baseball’s sacredness, so I feel that it is essential for the rule to be implemented in the full spirit of baseball, something that I don’t think it was in its first game.

Matt Smith August 9, 2008 - 2:43 pm

It’s a shame they didn’t respond, Joe. I know you contacted them in hope rather than expectation of a response, but it’s an impotant point that they really should clarify on their website at the least. Perhaps if it comes up in an Olympics game then they will be pushed into an explanation due to the higher profile it will receive?

Joe Gray August 11, 2008 - 1:21 am

An update on this… I got an email at the weekend from the IBAF office saying that they will be looking into the matter. So that’s very good news.


Joe Gray August 11, 2008 - 1:06 pm

The response from the person I have been in touch with at the IBAF office is that players automatically put on base should not be charged with an at-bat and that the box score in question is correct.

While I maintain that the box score does not seem to make sense if the players put on base were not charged with an at-bat, this is a minor issue really. The main thing is that it appears the statistics of baseball will not be too badly affected by the new rule.

Matt Smith August 12, 2008 - 10:06 pm

That’s good to hear. Thanks for your efforts in getting to the bottom of it.

Joe Gray August 15, 2008 - 9:43 am

Right – the Olympic baseball tournament has just got so hot that the stadium is in danger of burning down – I’m referring to games one and two on day three. Assuming the stadium survives, this has to be a good thing for the sport’s chances of making it back into the programme by 2016.

If US wins gold, I suspect it will damage the sport’s chances of being re-instated. I don’t like to say this (as I personally have no problem with the US winning it all), but it must be what other people are thinking.

Just comparing the box scorers and the play-by-play data for the Cuba-US match-up, it looks like (thankfully) at-bats are not being charged to those players automatically reaching base. For instance, Hector Olivera entered the game for Cuba as a pinch-runner and was one of the two runners placed on base at the start of the inning. He has a run in the 11th, but no at-bat.

Box score:

Play by play:


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