Should The Red Sox Emulate The Royals And Orioles? The Randomness Of Extra Inning Games

After defeating the Mariners in the tenth inning on Monday night, the Kansas City Royals improved to 6-2 in extra inning games, the best such record in baseball. The Royals are just 37-46 overall, and a terrible 31-44 in games that end in nine innings. Face the Royals in an extra inning game at your own peril, however.

Bad teams finding success in extra inning games is something of an odd 2010 trend. Although the Reds, a good team, have MLB's second best extra inning record with a 7-3 mark, they are followed by the Astros and Orioles, who along with Tampa Bay, are 5-2 in extras. Baltimore, an absurd 25-57, and Houston, 32-51, are even worse than Kansas City, yet like the Royals they've done better in extra innings than every division leader save the Reds. The Royals, Astros, and Orioles? Laughingstocks or clutch masters?

Conversely, the bottom of the extra inning standings include more anomalies. The Cardinals are 2-4. The Mets, a surprising 46-37, are just 3-5 in extra frames. Most shocking of all is Boston's mark: the Red Sox are bizarrely 2-7 in games that go longer than nine innings, and 47-27 otherwise.

A basic sabermetric tenet of the last twenty years is that teams, good or bad, gravitate towards .500 in one-run and extra inning games. This season, 12 teams are within a game of .500 one way or the other in extra inning contests, for example. As such, exceptionally good or bad records in close games are nearly entirely random. Aside from sometimes suggesting a team has a good bullpen, success in close games simply hasn't been demonstrated to be a repeatable skill for a team. Those brilliant extra inning Royals, for example, aren't good in one run games (12-17). Whatever is working every two weeks or so in the 10th or 11th inning for the Royals hasn't been a formula they've been able to repeat.

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