Crunching Numbers on the Braves’ Last Inning Victories

What else can one say about the Braves’ Major League-leading 23 victories in their final at-bat?

Well, I started thinking about a baseball team’s run production in terms of probability. I’m not a math wiz (that’s why I’m a writer), but it’s pretty simple that in a nine-inning game, a team theoretically has a chance of 1-in-9 to score in every inning, or 11.1 percent.

Like I said, that’s a fairly simple formulation. Teams play extra inning games (entering Wednesday night’s game, nine of the Braves’ 132 games have gone to extra innings, or 6.8 percent of them) and that throws off that 11.1 percent chance of scoring each inning — but not as much as you would think. On the whole, the 11.1 percent figure still serves as a pretty consistent guideline.

As it happens, the Braves scoring comports pretty closely with that probability figure. Here’s a breakdown of how many runs they have scored in each inning (they have played one 12-inning game and one 13-inning game, without scoring in either, and have not played any games longer than that this season):

1st inning: 73 runs (11.5 percent of their 633 runs entering Wednesday night)
2nd: 55 (8.7 percent)
3rd: 66 (10.4)
4th: 52 (8.2)
5th: 72 (11.4)
6th: 73 (11.5)
7th: 95 (15.0)
8th: 77 (12.1)
9th: 55 (8.7)
10th: 10 (1.6)
11th: 5 (0.8)

With 23 of their 77 victories (29.9 percent) having come in their final at-bat, I expected to see some big imbalance in the eighth and ninth innings. One obvious reason why the Braves have scored only 8.7 percent of their runs in the ninth is because of the games they have won at home without having to bat in the ninth inning (this statistic is not available in MLB’s pregame notes package; here is the link to Wednesday’s).

In fact, the seventh inning — perhaps surprisingly — is the one in which they have scored by far their most runs. Yet 14 of the Braves’ 23 wins (60.9 percent) in their final at-bat have come in the ninth inning. The Braves have won four in the eighth and four in the 10th and only one in the 11th.

From all this, there are a few reasonable conclusions one can draw. The first is one that does not apply to the Braves this season. It applies to every team and it’s fairly obvious: When a team scores in the ninth, it heavily impacts the outcome of a game. The Braves have outscored opponents 55-31 in the ninth.

As a percentage of the total number of runs the Braves and their opponents have scored in each inning, the Braves have outscored their opponents by the widest margins in the ninth and 10th innings. They have scored 64 percent of the runs (55 of 86) in the ninth and 90.9 percent of the runs scored in the 10th (10 of 11). And in the eighth, they have scored 59.2 percent of the runs (77 of 130). Only in the third inning have they scored a larger percentage of the runs in their games (66 of 111 or 59.5 percent).

So the final conclusion to draw from all of this? It’s not very mathematical at all. The Braves are great in the clutch this year.