What Is An ITB?


What is an ITB?What Is An ITB? Written By Gary Leland

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is what is an ITB? The letters ITB stand for International Tie Breaker. I was talking to a friend of mine who coached softball in Asia. During our discussion he informed me that the term International Tie Breaker is only used in North America. That the rest of the world just calls it a Tie Breaker. If that is the case I wonder why the word international is used at all?

The main reason for the international tie breaker is to speed up the game, plain and simple.

Let me tell you how an international tie breaker works. When the normal game is over, and the score is a tie the international tie breaker goes into effect. Now that can be at the top of the eighth inning in a seven inning game, or when the allotted time for the game has run out. So if the game had an hour and twenty minute time limit, when the time runs out, and the home team has finished batting the international tie breaker would start.

At the start of the next inning, the teams start their at bat with a player on second base. The player that starts on second base is the last player at bat in the previous inning. So if the number five hitter is up to bat at the start of the inning, the number four batter starts the inning as a base runner on second base. A player may be substituted for that base runner. With the player on second base the inning starts, and everything goes pretty much as normal from there. When an inning ends with a team in the lead, the game is over. As long as the score is tied the game continues.

The coaching strategy of the game changes quite a bit in an international tie breaker compared to the earlier portion of the game. The short game becomes very important, and wisely utilizing your bench can become a factor. Starting with a player on second makes your number one goal as a coach to move that player from second to third. This is normally done with a bunt. So you bunt the player to third, and you can care less about the bunter making it to first. Don't get me wrong it is great if they get to first, but your only concern was really getting the player at second base to third base.

With the player at third base you now have at least two at bats to get that player home, and score a run. With a nice sacrifice fly you can score the player, and a hit does the same thing.

For this conversation we are going to assume the visiting teams runner made it home, and the visiting team ends their at bat ahead by one run. From that point forward the main goal of the visiting team is to not let the home team score. If the home team does not score during their at bat the game is over, and the visiting team wins. If the home team only scores one run we play another inning using the international tie breaker. If the home team scores two runs they win the game.

I read a blog post by Matt Meuchel the head softball coach at the University of Nevada. In his article he said Tom Tango, a noted baseball sabermetrician, had created a Win Expectancy Chart. This chart published the percentage chance that each team has to win at any given situation during a game. His Win Expectancy Chart is broken down by half-innings and by each of the twenty four different possible base-out situations. Since the International Tie-Breaker is always in extra innings and always possibly the last inning of the game, Matt used the ninth inning chart for analysis. From there he came up with several interesting stats about the International Tie-Breaker.

Stat One: At the start of the International Tie-Breaker (in the top of the inning) the visiting team has a fifty percent chance to win the game at that current moment. This is always the chance a visiting team has of winning the game at the start of their offensive inning during a tie ball game.

Stat Two: If the visiting team does not score in the top of the inning in ITB, when the home team comes to hit (and starts with a runner on second and no one out), the home team has an 81.7 percent chance of winning the game at that moment.

Stat Three: Additionally, even if the visiting team does score one run in the top of the ITB inning, when the home team comes to hit (and starts with a runner on second and no one out), the home team still has a 46.2 percent chance to win (which is almost a coin flip).

I really found those points very interesting. It is crazy that the odds of winning move from fifty percent for the home team to 81.7 percent if they can hold the visiting team to zero runs, and that the home team still has a 46.2 percent chance of winning even if the visiting team score a run.

There can be different variations of the international tie breaker, but the one I just explained is the most common version. The Tournament director can make almost any kind of change to speed up the game, and try to keep the upcoming games on scheduled. They could start with the runner on third. I coached a game once where we started with a runner on second, and the player at bat started with a full count. So the batter saw one pitch, and after that pitch they ether struck out, or walked.

That was the fastest softball game I ever coached. We called it speed ball. Oh yea, my team won that international tie breaker. That was the first time I ever coached in an international tie breaker situation. At the time I thought that all international tie breakers were that fast. As I said there are variations of the international tie breaker rule, so do not be surprised if you find yourself involved in one.

I asked my friend former Olympian and University of Texas great Cat Osterman her thoughts on the international tie breaker, and she said As a pitcher it never bothered her much. She enjoyed pressure, so it made it exciting, but it's not fun to end a game on a run that's not earned.

A question I hear often concerning the international tie breaker is If the runner scores that was given second base at the beginning of the extra inning, does it count as an earned run against the pitcher?

In the NCAA Scoring Rules, rule number 14.24.2 When a runner who began the inning on second base during the tiebreaker scores and the pitcher is held accountable for all bases gained, score the run as earned but charge it to the team total and not to the
individual.

Then there is the Tiebreaker Rule 14.30.1 A run scored by the player starting as a runner at second base shall be charged to the defensive team and not the pitcher. Whether a run scored by any other player shall be charged to the pitcher is up to the judgment of the official scorer.

So, yes it is an “earned run” counted towards the Team ERA, but not the Pitcher's ERA.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association referred to as the NCAA uses the international tiebreaker rule in regular season games, but not until the tenth inning. The NCAA does not use the tiebreaker in its Division One championship tournament. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics follows NCAA rules on the tiebreaker.

When it come to the National Pro fastpitch League, Lisa Iancin Two time NPF Champion, and the 2005 NPF Defensive Player of the Year told me, They do not use the ITB in the National Pro Fastpitch League. She said “No ITB rule was established in the pro league since they play strictly for fan entertainment and fans pay to see an entire game.”

That is my explanation of the ITB. I hope that helped make it clear.

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