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Average length of MLB game over time?
January 25, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Are MLB games getting longer?

I think the average length of a Major League Baseball (MLB) game has increased over time. However, I'm unable to prove it.

Quick Google search of current average game length yields answers in the 2.5-3 hour range. But how does that compare to 10 years ago? 25 years ago? 50 years ago?

Bonus question: the typical start time of weeknight games is 7 p.m. (or 7:05 or 7:10). I hear from older generations that games used to start at 8 p.m.? Is that true? Were start times moved up to due to the length of games increasing?
posted by glenngulia to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes, and yes.
posted by timsteil at 7:11 AM on January 25, 2012


red sox games are getting longer
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2012


Yes. It's a big problem. From the Wikipedia article on baseball:
While nine innings has been the standard since the beginning of professional baseball, the duration of the average major league game has increased steadily through the years. At the turn of the twentieth century, games typically took an hour and a half to play. In the 1920s, they averaged just less than two hours, which eventually ballooned to 2:38 in 1960.[112] By 1997, the average American League game lasted 2:57 (National League games were about 10 minutes shorter—pitchers at the plate making for quicker outs than designated hitters).[113] In 2004, Major League Baseball declared that its goal was an average game of merely 2:45.[112] The lengthening of games is attributed to longer breaks between half-innings for television commercials, increased offense, more pitching changes, and a slower pace of play with pitchers taking more time between each delivery, and batters stepping out of the box more frequently.[112][113] Other leagues have experienced similar issues. In 2008, Nippon Professional Baseball took steps aimed at shortening games by 12 minutes from the preceding decade's average of 3:18.[114]
Yankees vs. Red Sox games are the worst offenders, often breaking the 4-hour mark.
posted by mkultra at 7:14 AM on January 25, 2012


"Yankees vs. Red Sox games are the worst offenders, often breaking the 4-hour mark."

I wouldn't put it that way; in my book, it depends entirely on who wins. This might be chat for all I know, but it's baseball so I have no objection. I do know that I have to delete games longer than four hours if I want to keep some particularly memorable ones to help me get through the winter!
posted by Anitanola at 7:21 AM on January 25, 2012


The average game time is getting longer, and the commissioner's office is pressuring umpires to do something about it. They've been tasked with enforcing the rule that the pitcher has a certain amount of time to throw the pitch or his team will be penalized. In addition, umpires have been told not to tolerate batters repeatedly stepping outside the batter's box. Whether these two efforts will offset the lag time created by tv timeouts is beyond me.

At the same time, there's a lot of talk about instant replay, which to my mind will slow the games down a whole bunch.

Lastly, as regards your bonus question, Saturday games at my ballpark now start at 6:10 and have since the 2009 season. There's a lot of talk among baseball marketing people (at least in my city) about how to interest more kids and so-called minorities in the game. Earlier start times (that don't conflict with bedtimes?), and a generally Applebees-like atmosphere are two vaunted ways to accomplish that goal. Or so I'm told.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 8:20 AM on January 25, 2012


Yankees vs. Red Sox games are the worst offenders, often breaking the 4-hour mark.

This is actually true and has been noted on multiple occasions. In 2011 the Yankees vs. Red Sox games lasted an average of 205 minutes compared to the AL average of 169.7. And out of the last six seasons, 205 minutes was the second shortest average game time for the Yankees vs. Red Sox (that is, 4 of the last 6 seasons had longer average game times.)

There are a few factors listed for this issue. The commercial breaks are longer for nationally televised games, typically 2m25s, which adds 8 minutes. The lineups for both teams typically have batters that will work deeper into a pitch count. There are some pitchers who are notoriously slow on both teams. Terry Francona was called out by Joe Torre (as MLB's VP of Baseball Operations) for letting Josh Beckett take 31 seconds between pitches when MLB rules stipulate 12 seconds between pitches.

FWIW, Beckett threw 101 pitches in that particular game (Aug 7, 2011) over 6.0 innings. Subtracting out one pitch for each batter faced (as the gap between players or end of an inning shouldn't affect game time) there are 75 pitches with an average 31 second delay. 19 seconds additional time multiplied by 75 pitches is 1425 seconds, or an additional 23m45s due to delays by just one of the two pitchers.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:30 AM on January 25, 2012


Jonathan Papelbon was also criticized for taking too long to come in from the bullpen as the Red Sox closer. He also took his time between pitches. We will see if Philadelphia changes him. In contrast, it is well known that Mariano Rivera simply materializes on the mound, efficiently destroys the opposition and dematerializes. He never appears to hurry but he never wastes any time.
posted by Anitanola at 10:45 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anitanola: "In contrast, it is well known that Mariano Rivera simply materializes on the mound, efficiently destroys the opposition and dematerializes. He never appears to hurry but he never wastes any time."

To be fair, he's only got one pitch to choose from ;)
posted by mkultra at 2:33 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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