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Frontier League To Adopt 'Sudden Death' Format For Extra Innings In 2022

Many baseball fans may hate the new extra-inning rules that have sped up games that go to extra innings.

Those fans have never had to manage a partner league team. With 24-player roster limits and the possibility that you could see a pitcher (or two) scheduled to pitch tomorrow signed by an affiliated club today, there are few things partner and indy league managers like less than a 15-inning game that wrecks the pitching staff for days to come.

What Frontier League managers discovered last year is that they didn’t like breaking ties with a home run derby, either. So this year, the Frontier League has announced that it will adopt “sudden death baseball” any time a game is tied after 10 innings (or eight innings in the case of a doubleheader game).

Sudden death baseball means that the home team gets a choice. Do they want to hit with a runner on first and no outs or do they want to take the field? If a run scores in that half inning, the batting team wins. If no runs score the pitching team wins.

“We did the derby last year. As fan friendly as that was, it just didn’t feel right. The whole thing was decided by how good your BP thrower is,” Evansville manager Andy McCauley said.

While McCauley noted his team was 5-1 in derby deciders, it still didn’t feel like baseball to him.

“You got eight pitches," he said. "If you didn’t have a guy throwing strikes, you were in trouble. It just didn’t feel right. It felt bad basing a win or a loss on eight pitches.”

The decision to adopt sudden death baseball was somewhat driven by the league’s managers.

“The managers unanimously weren’t in favor of the derby,” McCauley said.

There was the option of just using the international tiebreaker rules (where a runner starts on second base), but while that shortens the number of extra innings, it still can see a game go 12 or 13 innings or longer. With pitching staffs often stretched, figuring out a way to ensure games stop after 10.5 innings was more appealing to managers and Frontier League operators.

The league will use one inning of international tiebreaking rules before turning it over to sudden death.

“(Limiting) game time is the number one reason," McCauley said. "No. 2 is not over-extending pitchers. At least now, there is some baseball strategy still involved other than just eight swings of the bat."

Tom Tango’s run expectancy charts show that in MLB games from 1950-2015, one run could be expected to score between 41-45% of the time. There are no similar public run expectancy charts for the Frontier League, but the numbers are close enough to 50-50 that the home team will have a decision to make, based in part on where in the lineup it is and where the visiting team is in its lineup.

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