Trivial Little Baseball Puzzle


I’ve been reading a book about the innovations of baseball so that’s probably why it’s on my mind. And this isn’t important and I don’t expect it to go anywhere, but it did cross my mind, so, why not give it 200 words where they won’t do any harm?

Imagine one half-inning in a baseball game; imagine that there’s no substitutions or injuries or anything requiring the replacement of a batter. Also suppose there are none of those freak events like when a batter hits out of order and the other team doesn’t notice (or pretends not to notice), the sort of things which launch one into the wonderful and strange world of stuff baseball does because they did it that way in 1835 when everyone playing was striving to be a Gentleman.

What’s the maximum number of runs that could be scored while still having at least one player not get a run?

My gut instinct is to say 24, citing the pigeon-hole principle: imagine every player but one gets a run every at-bat; then, there’s eight runs for every out on the unlucky isolated person. Place the unlucky one at the bottom of the order and that’s eight times three before the inning’s out. (Place the unlucky batter first and you get as few was 16.)

Naturally since that answer’s clean, crisp, and obvious, I’m left doubting it. I don’t see a convincing way to get above 24 while preserving one unlucky batter, though I haven’t given this much thought either.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

3 thoughts on “Trivial Little Baseball Puzzle”

  1. I’m not certain enough of the rules to be sure this would work, but… What if 24 runs had been scored, and the bases were loaded, with the unlucky #9 batter on third base. The batter at the plate gets a hit that bounces all over the place, staying fair, and the outfielders stumble all over themselves trying to retrieve it, kind of like when we play on Spindizzy. The unlucky #9 batter fails to tag home plate, but thinks that he has, trotting off to the dugout. Meanwhile, the other three runners score before the defending team can get the ball to home plate to tag #9 out. Would that work?

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    1. I’m not sure. I think that it goes against the spirit of “no freak events”, since a runner missing a base is a fairly abnormal event. But allowing it as the sort of glitch that does happen often enough not to send people running to the rulebooks to find out whether it even is a rule …

      I don’t know. I’m fairly confident that this would put the unlucky runner out, but whether the runs that came in after he missed home plate count or whether they’re voided I’m not sure. I could certainly see a trivia book or column a la Ripley’s claiming there were 27 runs scored in that fateful inning even if the last three were annulled, though.

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    2. OK, per D F Manno in alt.fan.cecil-adams, if Unlucky #9 fails to touch home plate, then, he’d be out and neither his run nor the ones after him would count.

      However, it is not an automatic thing: per rule 7.10(d), the defending team would have to tag home plate and appeal to the umpire before the next pitch is thrown or any play (or attempted play) made. (See my comments about stuff being done as if it were still 1835.)

      If the defending team doesn’t tag the plate, or doesn’t appeal the play in time, or the umpire doesn’t agree the runner missed the base, though, then the run counts, which does spoil the setup about Unlucky #9 not getting a run.

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