Points-based scoring in MLB?

Tom Tango proposed a points system for MLB, allowing for ties and not using extra innings. He proposed giving each team 5 points to start. Extra inning games stayed at 5 points, treating them as a tie. If you win by 1, you get 1 more point; winning by 2 gets 3 more points, and winning by 3 or more is 5 more points, while losing by 1, 2, or 3+ would result in earning 1, 3, or 5 fewer points.

He added in a 1 point bonus  if a home team won by 2 or less without batting in the bottom of the 9th, or if they won with either 0 out, 1 out with 1 on, or 2 out with 2 on (presumably giving value to their chances of scoring if they played the 9th to completion), with a corresponding penalty for a visiting team losing in such circumstances.

So each game would result in a total of 10 points allocated to the two teams. An equivalent framing would be:

  • 10 – win by 3+
  • 8 – win by 2
  • 6 – win by 1
  • 5 – tie/extra innings
  • 4 – lose by 1
  • 2 – lose by 2
  • 0 – lose by 3+

Add/subtract 1 point for handling the bottom of the 9th.

He asked someone to run the numbers for 2014, and I took a crack at it. My database keeps line scores, but not the base-out state when a walk-off game ends, so I couldn’t do the bonus for winning in the bottom of the 9th with extra outs left or runners on, but I handled the rest.

I started thinking about this model in more detail. If MLB actually played under this sort of points system, that would change incentives for teams and managers. Now winning by 3, or even 2, becomes a lot better than winning by just 1. Lots of saber-inclined people complain bitterly about how the current save rule distorts bullpen management, with managers often bringing in a closer to pick up an easy save rather than using him in a tie game which has a higher leverage index. But in this modified scoring system, it actually would make more sense to use the closer with a 3-run lead than to preserve a 1-run lead, or in a tie game. You gain just 2 points relative to your opponent if you go from a tie to a 1-run lead, but if your 3-run lead drops to 2, you drop 4 points. So a leverage index under that scoring system would actually be higher when you have a 2-3 run lead than in a tie game!

That doesn’t fit well with me intuitively, so I thought about tinkering with his model. My first thought was rather than 10-8-6-5-4-2-0, trying 10-9-7-5-3-1-0. That gives the first marginal run more than your opponents more weight than any other, but it also makes that first insurance run worth exactly the same. To keep symmetry, but to have diminishing returns as your margin of victory increases, I switched to a 12-point, rather than 10-point, scale: 12-11-8-5-2-1-0. This preserves higher importance for getting a win than for winning by more, which is good. The main downside I see is that under a 10-point scale per game, points per game provides a nice, easy comparison with winning percentage under the old model, whereas with a 12-point scale, the average, rather than being 5.00, is now 6.00.

Still, I suppose one could just look at points per potential points as a proxy for winning percentage if one were so inclined. Hockey or soccer standings don’t typically bother with that, so maybe there wouldn’t be much interest.

I’ve created a page that can show both the original proposal from Tango or whatever other ranking you’d like. The original Tango proposal is here, and this page shows standings using my 12-point scale proposal. The page has data going back to 2010, and you can enter your own point values for the various win conditions if you’d like to try something else!

Update: Tango agreed that the original weights were off, but he views a 10-point system as a constraint. He came up with the same alternate 10-point scale I did, so I’ll change the page to default to using that. This link implements the modified proposal.

About Geoff

Dad, hacker, fantasy sports entrepreneur.
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