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What happens if a team runs out of players? 

Answering your most pressing questions
(Tom Forget / MLB.com)
@michaelsclair
May 8, 2020

Welcome to Infrequently Asked Questions, the series that explores the kind of questions you need to know at three in the morning. We are here to help, and remind you that while there are such things as stupid questions, that doesn't mean those questions don't deserve answers. Today, we answer

Welcome to Infrequently Asked Questions, the series that explores the kind of questions you need to know at three in the morning. We are here to help, and remind you that while there are such things as stupid questions, that doesn't mean those questions don't deserve answers.

Today, we answer the age-old query: What happens if a team completely runs out of players and has to play with eight?

Perhaps shockingly, it's more of an academic question than anything else. For while we've seen plenty of teams play deep into the night and completely empty out their bullpens, leaving position players to close out a game, no team has ever run out of players.

Somehow, in a sport that has records of wild dogs stealing balls, cannons blowing up outfield fences, and fans telling the manager what to do, no team has ever completely emptied its roster and then suffered an injury.

Plenty of teams -- especially in the 19th century -- failed to ever show up for a game, but if they made it to the ballpark, they always had adequate backups.

But, should this ever actually happen, there's a rule for that. It's spelled out pretty simply in rule 7.03(b):

"A game shall be forfeited to the opposing team when a team is unable or refuses to place nine players on the field."

That's a bummer. If it happens in a tie game in the 20th inning? Sorry, game's over.

Still, what would it be like if a team were allowed to take the field with only eight players, as many high school rules allow? For that, we turned to MLB.com's Senior Data Architect, Tom Tango -- taking him away from important work to answer this moderately silly question.

He suggested that teams might simply swap out an infielder, moving them from side to side to shift to the batter's pull side. Since the average second and third baseman make about five outs per game, this shifting would probably still convert about three of those outs, leaving two new hits to find the hole that had been opened up.

Since an out-to-hit conversion is worth about three quarters of a run, Tango's back of the envelope math suggests it's likely that teams would give up about 1.5 more runs per game with this method. But, since this most likely wouldn't be from the start of the game, that number would be considerably less. Still, tell that to a team that loses a marathon game on an RBI single through a vacated spot in the infield, and I'm sure they'd feel differently.

Michael Clair writes for MLB.com. He spends a lot of time thinking about walk-up music and believes stirrup socks are an integral part of every formal outfit.