Home Features The Odds of Winning With a Rule Change in the MLB

The Odds of Winning With a Rule Change in the MLB

Over the years, there has always been a lot of conversations that centred around the topic of speeding up the pace of a Major League Baseball (MLB) game. Along with the conversations, there have also been decisions made that made changes to how the game is played. Most notably, in 2015, when timers were enforced and installed to quicken the pace of the game and cut off any excess time. Two years later, the MLB decided to use a signal instead of the 4-pitch intentional walk which is a time-honoured tradition. With any change to the rules, there will always be an outcry from baseball purists and a rule that affects the strategy of a major league game is more than likely to spur discontent.

The proposed rule in question would also attempt to cut down on time. The proposal stated that there would be a runner on second base at the start of every extra inning. The idea behind the change was to shorten the length of a game and also decrease the bullpens’ inning workload. The proposed benefit of the change would be that bullpens would be less fatigued, cited by then MLB Baseball Officer, Joe Torre. The rule was implemented in short-season baseball games in the minor league and began to gain momentum.

The Rule Change

[Image Explaining the Rule]

While looking into the rule and its implications, the CasinoTop team wanted to find out how the rule would have affected the outcome of games played in the past. We then took a look at playoff baseball games over three years prior and used the play-by-play data. The study was done by placing a runner on second base whenever there was an extra inning in the playoff games played in the past to see what the possible outcome would be.

How the games Changed

[Image Showing Data from Games where the Rule was Applied]

The study only included three years worth of playoffs, which turned out to be a total of 103 games. From that total, we found that 90 of them did not undergo any changes because there were no extra innings to work with. So, the 13 games that remained were used as the basis of the study to analyze the effects of the rule change.

One of these games was the historic Game 7 of the World Series, which ended the Cubs' 108-year championship drought. There would have been no innings cut or a change in the winner in this game, but it would have been a higher scoring match. Furthermore, many of the games were cut short, but the winner remained the same. Game 3 of the 2016 NLDS, Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Game 2 of the 2015 ALDS, and the 2014 AL Wild Card game are all included in this category.

Out of the 13 games analyzed, only one game's outcome was affected by this rule: Game 2 of the 2014 National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Washington Nationals. The original format of the game saw a Brandon Belt home run in the top of the 18th inning that propelled the Giants to victory. If each inning had started with a runner on second, Ryan Zimmerman's line-drive single to left field in the bottom of the 10th would have driven in the runner and brought the game to a close. The regulation adjustment would have shortened the contest by eight innings.

When we consider the consequences of a different outcome, this Giants vs. Nationals series becomes even more important. The Nationals would have knotted the series at one game apiece if they won in 10 innings. Game 3 was won by the Nationals, while Game 4 was lost. The Nationals would have forced a series-deciding Game 5 in their ballpark if the "man on second" rule had been in place. Madison Bumgarner's outstanding efforts powered a historic run and helped the Giants win the 2014 World Series after they advanced past the Nationals.

Leaving Work Early

[Image of How many Minutes of a game Were Shaved off]

There is no greater supporting evidence than the Giants vs. Nationals game if managers hope to save pitchers' arms and reduce team fatigue with this rule modification. The "men on second" rule modification, according to our calculations, would have reduced the 2014 National League Division Series situation by roughly three hours.

We also found that despite the same outcome, we predicted that Game 2 of the Rangers vs. Blue Jays 2015 American League Division Series would have been over an hour shorter. While a few of the games had significant duration differences, seven of the thirteen games studied would not have been shortened in any way, which is a significant percentage of the games analyzed.

The Potential for a Negative Fan Response

[Image Displaying how Fans would React]

We also evaluated what the fans would think about the “runner on second” rule change and found that they would nearly all be against it. The scale used had a maximum of seven with 1 indicating that fans would love to have the rule implemented. The results showed that the rule was given a rating of 6.3, which is nowhere close to the approval of the rule, based on the opinion of baseball fans.

Just a Minor Adjustment

Even though baseball fans aren’t keen on having this rule an official part of the game, we have found that fans don’t really support any proposed changes. The game is known as America’s pastime which means that the traditional format is something that baseball fans want to hold on to for fear of losing how the game is intended to be played.

There may not be much support from the fans, but the research shows that there wouldn’t be much of a difference in the outcome of baseball games. The odds of a sports fan’s team winning remain relatively unchanged, but the benefit to the players is significant. There is a chance to elevate the excitement of the game and give baseball players more downtime to prepare for their next game.


To get the results we analyzed, there were a few assumptions that needed to be made with the data we had to work with.

  • A double steal occurs when a runner steals second base while the newly placed runner is on second.
  • If the batter advanced to second base due to an error, the guy on second would advance two bases as well.
  • With less than two outs, a runner on third base would advance to home.
  • A runner would advance from second to third base with any base hit.

To find out what the fans thought about the rule change, a survey was conducted that included more than 200 fans of the game.


Fair Use Statement

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