Screwing Over Mexico In The World Baseball Classic: Now THAT’S A Stupid Rule…

Rationalization #30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule,” is a widely employed ethics dodge, used by everyone from drug dealers to tax cheats. It doesn’t mean that many rules are not bad and stupid however. The World Baseball Classic just demonstrated its management’s incompetence with one of them. As is often the case when bad rules and laws prevail, injustice is the result.

Sixteen national teams are competing in the World Baseball Classic, a relatively new baseball tournament played during MLB’s  Spring Training. There are five pools of teams in an elimination tournament. The competitors this year (the tournament is held every four years, sometimes three—never mind, they are still working it out) are Japan, Taiwan, China, SOUTH Korea (the first version of this post erroneously said “North”—wishful thinking on my part), Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, the U.S., of course, and…Israel. Pool competition just ended (the US is moving on to the next round) and Mexico, Venezuela and Italy all finished with records of 1-2 in their pool games. The tournament doesn’t have time for extended play-off games, so a tie-breaker was triggered.

Under Classic tiebreaker rules, the two teams with the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning in games played between the teams tied during the tournament play an elimination game, and the other is eliminated. The calculation of runs allowed per inning includes “partial innings.” (Hold that thought.) Major League Baseball announced that Venezuela (1.11 runs allowed per defensive inning) and Italy (1.05 runs allowed) will play an elimination game, with Mexico (1.12) out of the tournament. Here is how it stacked up:

Venezuela: 1-2 record, 20 runs scored, 30 runs allowed, 27 defensive innings played
Italy: 1-2 record, 23 runs scored, 29 runs allowed, 28 innings played
Mexico: 1-2 record, 24 runs scored, 28 runs allowed, 25 defensive innings played.

Mexico’s team stats, however, have an inning missing. Against Italy they gave up five runs in the 9th inning to blow a lead and allow Italy a comeback win without registering a single out. Because there was no out (that is, a third of an inning), that 9th didn’t count even as aa “partial inning.” The five runs counted, but the inning does not. If the inning had counted, Mexico would have edged out Venezuela with a 1.o6 score.

But how can you count five runs from an inning that your system says was never played? Good question! This is why Mexico registered a protest. That, and the fact that Mexico beat Venezuela in its last pool game, make its elimination hard to justify. If two teams are tied, wouldn’t the fact that one defeated the other in their only game against each other be the logical “tie-breaker”? (All three teams lost to Puerto Rico.)

Nevertheless, a tie-breaker calculation that counts the runs scored in an inning but not the inning they were scored in is unquestionably incompetent. Almost anything—home run derby, three-inning sudden death, a coin flip, a tug-o-war—would be better.


Pointer: New York Times

Facts: CBS, MLB

18 thoughts on “Screwing Over Mexico In The World Baseball Classic: Now THAT’S A Stupid Rule…

  1. I’ll submit that they did count the partial inning, but that the part is 0 of 3 possible outs. Pitchers have always started innings, faced several batters, and left without adding to their innings pitched totals. This is often noted in box scores, with a statement that “X pitched to three batters in the sixth inning.”

  2. There are 8 time periods per inning, 0 outs, 1 out, two outs, and 3 outs for each side. A partial inning should include the time period that begins the inning not the one that ends the inning.

  3. In all of this, I’m assuming Mexico batted in the top of the 9th. That’s the only way Italy scores 5 runs in a walk-off that I know of, so a half an inning has, in fact, been played. Seems to me that Mexico’s protest has some merit.

  4. I want to see someone try to fix the rule and come up with something even more unreadable (I’m not saying it can’t be fixed properly, just that I’m sure it can be fixed horribly 🙂 )

  5. I think it’s based on major league baseball’s rule for calculating Earned Run Average, which references “fractions of innings” instead of “partial innings”:

    WBC: “…runs allowed divided by the number of innings (including partial innings) played in defense….”

    MLB: “…multiply the total earned runs charged against such pitcher by 9, and divide the result by the total number of innings he pitched, including fractions of an inning.”

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