Mercy rule

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A mercy rule, also well known by the slightly less polite term slaughter rule (or, less commonly, knockout rule and skunk rule), brings a sports event to an early end when one team has a very large and presumably insurmountable lead over the other team. It is called the mercy rule because it spares the losing team the humiliation of suffering a more formal loss, and denies the winning team the satisfaction thereof. The mercy rule is most common in games such as baseball or softball, where there is no game clock and play could theoretically continue forever, although it is also used in sports such as hockey and football. It is very rare in competitive sports beyond the high school level.


Usage details

The rules vary widely, depending on the level of competition, but nearly all youth leagues and high school sports associations, and many college sports associations have mercy rules for sports including baseball, softball, football (though not college) and soccer. It is common in video game simulations of sports because it helps move the game along.

However, mercy rules usually do not take effect until a prescribed point in the game (e.g., the second half of a Association football game). That means one team, particularly if they are decidedly better than a weaker opponent, can still "run up the score" before the rule takes effect. For instance, in American football, one team could be ahead by 70 points with three minutes left in the first half; in baseball, the better team could have a 20-run lead in the second inning, but the game would continue.

Baseball and softball

In international baseball competitions sanctioned by the IBAF, including Olympic competition and the World Baseball Classic (WBC), games are currently ended when one team is ahead by 10 runs, once at least seven completed innings are played by the trailing team. In women's competition, the same applies after five innings.[1]

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