Monday, November 24, 2008


I try to enter the Car Talk puzzle contests every week, but a lot of times they're way too logical for me. I can do word puzzles, can't do math puzzles, and can usually struggle through logic puzzles even though they give me a headache. The puzzler last week was about baseball:

RAY: This came from a fellow named Harold Pressberg, who says this puzzler occurred to him after looking at the box score of a game between the Mets and the Cards. He was checking the stats for a certain relief pitcher of the Mets who came in at the start of the 7th inning.

Now when you look at the box score, it says things like Innings pitched, 1. Hits, 0. So he pitched an inning and allowed no hits. Runs, 1. Earned runs, 1. Strikeouts, 1. Bases on balls, 0.

So, in other words, he pitched one inning, and in doing so, he recorded 3 outs, gave up no hits or walks, and was still charged with an earned run.

How was this possible?

Well, I knew the answer right away. And this what I e-mailed them.

There's a lot of ways this could happen. Here's one: The pitcher strikes out the first batter, but the catcher drops the third strike and the runner advances to first. Next batter sacrifices him over to second. Runner steals third. Next batter hits a sacrifice fly, scoring the runner. Third batter grounds out. The pitcher's line would read 1 inning pitched, 1 strikeout, 1 run, 1 earned run, no hits, no walks.

Well, guess what -- I didn't win. They didn't even acknowledge my answer as an acceptable alternative. Here's their answer:

RAY: Here's the answer. It turns out he pitched the seventh inning and he did pretty much exactly that, he struck out a guy, didn't walk anybody, and didn't allow any runs in the seventh inning. In the eighth inning, he comes out, hits the first batter with a pitch. The manager takes him out and brings in another pitcher. That guy gives up a home run.

TOM: Oh.

RAY: The first pitcher gets charged with an earned run because he hit the batter. But because he didn't record any outs in the next inning, he didn't get charged with pitching part of an inning. According to the box score, he pitched one full inning.

That's one way. Like I said there are several ways. Maybe they don't know that a run that scores after a runner advances on a dropped third strike counts as an earned run, but it does. You could look it up.

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