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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Timed Baseball and Playing to Fail

The recurring discussion about whether the Astros would be better off long term if they aimed for the worst record in baseball(and the first pick in the 2014 draft) reminds me of a situation that occurs occasionally in the sport called timed baseball.

If you've ever played "recreational" softball or played or coached youth baseball, you have probably encountered the phenomena of timed baseball/softball.  In this sport, games are scheduled to last a certain number of innings.  However, a new inning can not start after a pre-determined amount of time.

Usually, timed baseball is not discernible from its un-timed cousin.  Yet, a few times a season, it forces teams to play a sport that is nothing like the game Abner Doubleday is credited with inventing.

In one common scenario, the home team trails by three or four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning with about five minutes left on the game clock.  After one quick out is recorded against the #9 batter in the order(of an 11-man batting order), I have seen teams quickly concede their second and third out to efficiently end the inning.

This strategy, if properly employed, assures that trailing team will have the top of its order up to try to win the game after the visitors are duly retired in the top of the sixth.  If the #10 and #11 batters attack their at bats normally, there is a good chance that the team won't score the needed runs and time will run out, making a sixth-inning comeback impossible.

I don't experience this annoying aspect of timed baseball very often.  For this, I am thankful.

Short of playing only un-timed games and dealing with the resulting scheduling problems, I don't know of any good way to avoid this circumstance in which players are asked to intentionally fail at their "job" in order to help the team's future. Nonetheless, the lack of a good option doesn't make watching timed baseball any  more enjoyable.

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