"No doubles" defense in baseball (with a lead late in a game)

I’m watching the Pirates-Mets game an the announcers are going on about how Mets’ third baseman David Wright screwed up by playing his normal position instead of “no doubles” with a 2-1 lead with 2 outs in the 8th.

The traditional rationale is that it is better to give up a single in the hole instead of a double down the line and put a runner in scoring position. But doesn’t that open up the normal positions to make more singles likely? If not, why not play the whole game in a “no doubles” defense? Have statistics been compiled on this or is it just tradition for its own sake?

The reason it makes sense is that late in a game it’s more important in that situation to prevent a single run from happening than allowing multiple runs.

A double creates the immediate threat of blowing a one-run lead. However, most of the time you’re less concerned with allowing one run and much more concerned with allowing many. That’s why in the first inning with a man on third and one out, the infield will usually play back and concede a run to get the out.

Games are usually won by big innings. But with the score 2-1 in the 8th, you’re now tilting the nature of the game such that a single run play is much likelier to affect the game’s outcome than it would be early in the game with the events of the game largely yet to be determined.

Wow, I didn’t realize Jays fans knew their baseball so well! :smiley:
And, thanks for that explanation. This Giants fan appreciated it.

I guess I’m not seeing it. In a 2-1 situation in the 8th inning, a team doesn’t want to give up a single run or give up multiple runs. In a tie game in the first inning the team likewise doesn’t want to do either. Yes, a team may concede a run in the first because they have many innings to score; but a team wouldn’t reverse the process and “concede” a multiple run inning in the 8th.

If it is a good strategy in a 2-1 game in the 8th inning to give up zero runs by playing no doubles, then why is it not equally as good in the 1st inning, or 2nd, or 3rd…? I think your explanation is in the percentages. With one or two innings left, it’s best to go for broke by taking the slim chance on a multiple run inning by more likely foreclosing the chance of a single run inning.

However, it seems like over the course of a season, you will lose the same amount of games by playing this strategy late in games as you would by playing it in every inning. IOW, we need some stats. By playing normal defense, there is an X% chance of giving up 1 run and Y% chance of multiple runs. By playing “doubles only” defense, there is a Z% chance of giving up a single run and a ZZ% chance of giving up multiple runs.

Likewise, I’m not convinced that conceding runs in early innings is the best strategy. I’ve seen many games where that early run was the difference.

You’re missing that there’s added information later in the game. If you blow a one-run lead by many runs, you lose once. If you blow it by one run, you also lose once. The extra runs don’t carry over to the next game.

However, if you blow a 3rd inning tie by giving up multiple runs, you’ll likely lose. If you give up just one run, you stand a good chance of tying it up later.

Suppose I knew at the beginning of the season that my pitchers would give up 450 runs this season. If I could pick and choose where to give up those runs, I would lose the first game 0-450 and go undefeated the rest of the year. That would be a fantastic feat even if I only scored 161 runs throughout the year, right?

Unfortunately, you can’t choose when to give up your “destined” runs. But what you can do is influence whether they come in batches or come in trickles. When the game is in the late innings, you know which kind you want. You want the batches, because you really, really need a dry spell and anything else will lead to a loss.

That’s what playing no-doubles does. It says “If I’m going to give up runs, I’m going to give up many.”

The Yankees just won in the 13th playing “no doubles” defense.