So you are headed to the ballpark and are wondering how long does a baseball game last. While baseball can be fun and exciting and here at bsci-ch.org we believe baseball is one amazing sport to play, coach or watch, we understand that the game, especially a 9 inning Major League Baseball, game can seem like an eternity for those that might not love baseball at the same level as us.
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While the excitement of a tie game after nine innings might not sit well with some people and only make the experience longer, those of us baseball purists love the intricacies of the game.
However, we are major proponents of finding ways to make a game go faster, while keeping the level of entertainment high.So, How Long Does A Baseball Game Last?The average Major League Baseball game, which lasts at least 9 innings, takes an average of 3 hours and 5 minute. Despite attempts being made to cut down the total time, MLB has been unsuccessful in making this happen. It is also the only major sport that does not have a clock involved. 3 Outs must be recorded in each half of every inning, which requires 54 outs to be made unless the home team doesn’t hit in the bottom of the 9th inning due to winning the game and then that number is reduced to 51.
Overall, the game can take a long time and efforts should continue to be pursued to reduce the overall length of the game. There are a number of factors influencing the length of the games that we will discuss below.
Below we break down the following:The factors causing the length of the gamePossible Solutions: We discuss what efforts can be made to cut down the length of the gameWe compare MLB to other major sports such as the NFL and NBAWe finish by providing an overview of how long other levels of baseball take
Factors Causing The Length of the Game at the MLB Level and Possible Solutions
1 – Pitching Changes
At a major league baseball game it is pretty normal to see anywhere between 3-5 pitching changes by both teams in a game. Gone are the days of pitchers throwing a complete game, although they still occur, just not very frequently.
With the specialization that now occurs with major league bullpens, managers are maximizing their 25 man roster and making sure they are getting the matchups they want from about the 6th inning on.
We continue to have the lefty specialist in the bullpen and several other specialists that are best against certain types of hitters.
On top of all of this, we also have more analytics and numbers that provide managers with an overload of information that can be used to try to maximize their rosters and get the best matchups possible. Also, teams are aware of how many innings their pitchers throw and the overall pitch count during every game.
If a pitcher is a rising star, the team closely monitors the total number of innings thrown in a month and overall season. This leads to teams heading to the bullpen earlier in the game.
Also, don’t discount the analytics on the hitting side of it all and understand that hitters now have a better idea and more information to understand how a pitcher is trying to get them out. This has an impact on a pitcher’s ability to make it through a lineup successfully 3 or 4 times in a single game.
When these pitching changes occur, the game comes to a halting stop and there is no action taking place. Each pitching change can take up to 3-5 minutes by the time the manager slowly walks the mound, waits for the umpire to head out, signals to the bullpen, and then the pitchers strolls in from the outfield bullpen. Talk about slow!Possible Solution:
MLB baseball has now implemented a rule that each pitcher must pitch to a total of 3 batters minimum. Or get through the end of that inning, which could allow a pitcher to face as little as one hitter. Another solution is to cut down on the size of the bullpen allowed, but we don’t see that happening in the near future. The union will want to maximize players on roster and cut down on potential injury situations.
2 – Increase in the # of Strikeouts
We have seen a spike in the number of home runs and the number of strikeouts in a game. It is nothing for a player to strikeout over a 100 times in a season.
What this means to the length of the game is that less balls are being put into play and many batters might now go deep in the count instead of making contact early on.
This can lead to longer games and also cuts down on the number of ground ball double plays. This means less outs are made in the field and more outs are made through strikeouts.
This can not only make the game longer, but also make the game more boring. The only positive is that the number of homeruns in the 2019 season hit an all time high.Possible Solution:
I am not really sure there is a solution to this problem. This is just the way the game is moving. The analytics tell us the importance of home runs and the ability to drive the ball for extra base hits.
I see this issue only growing in the coming years. It is not like you can reduce strikeouts directly. A rather radical idea is to start each hitter with a 1 and 1 count. This could lead to more walks and strikeouts.
This could change the game significantly, but I never would imagine this going in this direction because baseball is a game built on tradition and this is a significant change.
3 – Time Between Pitches
Many of the major league pitchers work very deliberately, especially late in games. As the tension rises, the pitcher will often slow down.
Another significant time causing situation is when a pitcher is shaking off the catcher and then the catcher has to head out to the mound. Also, with the recent cheating scandal by the Houston Astros, teams will now be even more aware and suspicious of teams and work to protect the communication between the catcher and the pitcher.
I could foresee more trips to the mound to ensure the pitcher and the catcher are on the same page. With technology potentially being a part of the cheating, teams will be extra cautious in the coming years.Potential Solution:
A pitch clock that is followed closely. Also, requiring the batter to keep one foot in the box at all times. He can still turn to get the signal from the coach, but cannot leave the box.
These little 5-10 second savings add up in the over 60 plus at bats that occur during the typical game. We would also love to see MLB work on the communication between the pitcher and catcher and the manager.
Much like football utilizes a headset, I think catchers, pitchers and possibly a coach on the bench could communicate to help speed up this process. This could also cut down on the amount of cheating that is taking place and what the Houston Astros got away with in winning the 2017 World Series.
4 – Time Between Innings
Although MLB has sped up the time between innings, I still believe it could go faster. One major factor here is that television and radio make their money through the commercials shown between innings.
Cutting down on this time, could cut down on the amount of revenue that could be generated. This is a difficult situation because MLB and the owners rely on making money through marketing on TV and radio and I can hardly blame them for wanting to maximize this money.Possible Solution:
Work on in game commercials on a split screen or more radio timeouts for quick ads. The fact is that many people use the time between winnings to get food, use the bathroom or check out what else i on TV.
5 – Mound Visits
Teams are only allowed to visit the mound 5 times during a game. This number remains high. Does the manager really need to stroll out to the mound to talk to the pitcher as frequently as they do?
I understand that it is often about slowing down the momentum and checking in on the pitcher, but is there a better way to do this. If each mound visit takes 1-2 minutes you are looking at an additional 5-10 minutes per game due to mound visits.
If the bench had a way to communicate with the pitcher and catcher we could see a complete reduction in mound visits saving 5-10 minutes per game. However, once again MLB would have to bring in some communication via technology and that doesn’t seem to be an option at this time.
Kudos to MLB – In Game Entertainment
The amount of in game entertainment during pitching changes and between innings is so much better than 20 years ago. Having younger kids and taking them to the ballpark, the in game entertainment helps make a slow, low scoring game more bearable.
Kids want to see action and MLB has learned from the NBA in doing constant entertainment such as give aways, contests and dancing to the music. Each MLB team has worked hard to provide and increase this level of entertainment. As a father with young kids at games, I am grateful. While I am there for the baseball and water, the kids appreciate and enjoy the fun.
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The video screens at most MLB stadiums are large and entertaining as well. Gone are the days of the 1990s where not much happened during the game other than the game itself.