Atlanta Braves and the impact of the tie

Don’t forget one of the ideas that has been floated over the past few weeks as part of an abbreviated season:  the tie.

How might the Atlanta Braves fare in the event that MLB opts to allow for games to end in ties later this year?

Yes, that’s a big-time hypothetical assumption, but in the interest of cramming more games into fewer days while avoiding the distasteful possibility of ruining bullpen arms with lots of extra-inning games, ties are one possible solution for 2020.

With that as a backdrop, one of the writers for TheAthletic who happens to favor this desecration of All That Is Good and Decent about baseball (I speak not of the Designated Hitter at this time) decided to do the dirty work (subscription required) and figure out how the 2019 season would have turned out if all games going to extra innings had been stopped and declared as ties.

The idea here was to try and suggest that ties wouldn’t matter.  Just like picking 154 games or 162 games for the length of a season wouldn’t matter.  That wasn’t quite that case, though it might have made the last month of the regular season way too interesting… for our Atlanta Braves.

In this rehash of the 2019 season, writer Britt Ghiroli expanded on the idea started by one of her readers and figured out what would have changed had every extra-inning game been converted to a tie, and then to a points system:  2 points for an outright victory; 1 for the tie; 0 for a loss.

So right away, we can think “uh oh – this would have hurt teams that did well in extras last year”.  Truth.  It’s also a fairly dramatic shift among teams as to who had a lot of these games:  the range went from 8 (White Sox) to 19 (Pirates and Rays).

Atlanta Braves and Tie Games

Teams with big leads – we’d hope – would not be impacted by this scheme.  That was true for the Yankees in 2019:  a 7 game margin over the Rays translated to a 14 point margin factoring in ties, with both clubs finishing 3 games above water in their respective extra-inning affairs.

But let’s move to the NL East:  Atlanta participated in 17 overtime contests, going a robust 11-6.  The Nationals found themselves in only 10 of these and were under water:  they were 4-6.

Atlanta ultimately won the division on cruise control – prevailing by 4 games.  But in this tie-gets-a-point system, that now penalizes the Braves’ tendency to win late and elevated the Nationals, despite their bullpen meltdowns.

The NL East could have been decided by a single point:  189 to 188 in favor of Atlanta.

Ghiroli went on to conjecture that Milwaukee would have won the NL Central outright over the Cardinals – also by a single point.  The reason is the same as the NL East:  the Cards were better in extra-inning games than the Brewers were.

In even more revisionist history, Ghiroli went back to 2018 to discover that the Rockies would have beaten out the Dodgers (183-181) in 2018 for the crown of the NL West had ties been resolved in this manner.  Instead of a victory in Game 163, the Dodgers would have been thrown into the Wild Card game.

Should this hair-brained scheme come to pass this Summer – or ever – keep in mind these things:

  • The guarantee of shorter games favors teams with weaker bullpens in general.  If your 5th or 6th arm in the pen isn’t particularly trustworthy, but never sees the mound, then it’s “no harm, no foul”.  Milwaukee would be the poster child here: it was often Josh Hader or bust for them last year.
  • Recall the reactions from 2008 when even one game – the didn’t-even-matter All Star game – ended in a 7-7 tie.  You truly don’t want to go there.
  • Mind you, even the sports of hockey and soccer have done their level best to try and end games over the past couple of decades (at least major ones in the case of soccer) without a tie being involved.  The trend in professional sports is away from ties.

It would be interesting, too, seeing weaker clubs strategize toward playing for a tie rather than go for a win at times.  Do you go for the “big inning” or just make sure you get 1 run?

We’re already stuck with the 3-batter minimum for pitchers… how might that factor into the a tie scenario at the end of a game?

Of course, the big thing is this:  how would fans react in not seeing an outright winner?  We’d definitely have fewer walk-offs, fewer dramatic moments, and a lot more “meh”.

I’d personally expect that this 2019 range of 8-to-19 potential tie games would rise to something more like 12-to-25 as managers and players might feel pressured to at least come away with 1 point instead of nothing.

Next: A first time for everybody

Sure: this is “an idea” – along with universal DH, shorter double-headers, and expanded rosters.  But please… don’t go here.  These are the ties that bind up the game into something that looks a lot less like baseball.