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Did Baseball’s Pace of Play Improvement Carry Over Into October?

By now, baseball fans have long since heard all of the complaints about the modern game; the games take too long… pitchers take too long between pitches… batters adjust their gloves after every pitch…batters take too many pitches, etc., etc., etc.  As a result these rituals have led to a longer and less interesting game for serious fans, but especially casual fans, and have led to the implementation of a number of changes for the 2015 season designed to reduce the overall length of games.

Of course, as we’ve discussed on multiple occasions on this site, there’s more to just a slower game than longer game times. It’s one thing for games to take a long time when there is constant action (such as a lot of pitches being thrown late in a close game), but it’s another thing when the time between pitches is increasing during times of less activity (such as batters constantly asking for time in the fourth inning of a blowout game).  The latter was one of the issues baseball was working to fix with the 2015 season, such as by requiring batters to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box following most pitches.

By threatening (but apparently not carrying out on) fining players who didn’t follow these improvements, baseball saw a total decrease of six minutes in the average game time in 2015 compared to 2014. Most viewed this as an overall win for baseball, as many were skeptical of any attempts to speed up the game.

Of course, it’s one thing to shave a couple of minutes off a game between the Padres and Marlins in May that few people are watching; it was likely much more important for baseball to speed up playoff games with more of a national audience in October.  In this regard, baseball had to tread very carefully.  The league certainly wanted its marquee games to be exciting and easy to watch for casual fans that were much more likely to be watching, but at the same time the league surely didn’t want to upset players playing in their most important games of the season.

In any case, were 2015 playoff games more watchable than those in 2014?

 MLB Playoff Games: 2015 vs. 2014



Total Games



Extra-Inning Games



Average Length

3 hours, 22 minutes

3 hours, 38 minutes

Average Pitches Thrown







It appears that by a couple of different measures, 2015 playoff games were significantly easier to watch than those the year before.  Both years saw nearly the exact number of average pitches thrown per game, though there were more extra inning postseason games in 2014 (which likely contributed to the longer average game time).  However, when looking at the pace of play using the average number of pitches thrown per minute, 2015 postseason games moved along much, much faster.

The ratio of 1.31 pitches per minute seen in the 2014 postseason is an achingly slow pace.  When looking back at some of this site’s previous columns on pace of play, regular season games in 2013 involving American League teams saw 1.60 pitches per minute, and 1.58 in games involving National League teams.  Using these figures (looking at different seasons) playoff games were played at a pace that was nearly 20% slower.

As another point of comparison, in 2015 regular season games involving the World Series champion Kansas City Royals averaged 1.59 pitches per minute, and an average game time of nearly exactly three hours. Using these figures 2015 playoff games had a pace that was a little more than 11% slower than Royals’ regular season games – significantly slower to be sure but not nearly as bad as the season before.

To be sure, playoff games will almost always take longer and have a slower pace than regular season games.  All players are going to be more likely to take longer between pitches despite the measures the league takes to limit downtime. Additionally, playoff games, all of which are nationally televised, have longer average commercial breaks than regular season games that are not nationally televised, which contributes to longer total game times and thus a lower pitches per minute ratio.

At the same time, even serious fans don’t want to watch games that feel like they will never end.  If taking six minutes off the average time of a regular season game was a positive for baseball, taking sixteen minutes off the average time of a playoff game was a significant improvement for the league.

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