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Some Baseball Games Are Speeding Up Much More than Others


By now most baseball fans have heard the good news – games are going faster!  The league proudly trumpeted the good news earlier this week in announcing that so far in 2015, games so far are about eight and a half minutes faster than they were a year ago.

In other words, baseball players quickly adapted to the new culture new commissioner Rob Manfred worked hard in his first few months to implement, or the threat of a few hundred dollar fine every at bat scared even millionaires straight (or both).  Whatever the reason, the new game times have been met with applause from nearly everyone (with the possible exception of the beneficiaries of the Major League Baseball Players Trust charitable foundation, which is where such fines that may now not be levied would have been directed).

On this site we’ve previously looked at pace of play in baseball, which is different than actual game time.  While both pace of play and total game times appear to be down this year (thanks largely to less shenanigans in between pitches), it turns out that some types of baseball games are moving along even faster than others.

While game length has been a growing problem for all types of games, including high-scoring, and low-scoring, for fans and baseball executives alike it has been particularly frustrating in recent years when a 2-1 game can take three hours to complete.  While there can be legitimate reasons for this to happen once in a while, including a high number of stranded runners, a high number of pitching changes, and others, when there’s little end action (in the form of runs) many believe that such games just simply shouldn’t take as long.

Looking at just games with the home team being American League teams in 2014 (i.e. the Designated Hitter rule is in effect), here’s how long the average game took by the number of runs scored (thanks to Baseball Reference for the data):

Runs

Count

Avg. Game Time

 1 - 4

216

175.7

 5 - 7

373

182.8

 8 - 10

292

188.5

 11+

334

204.1

In other words, in 2014 games with 4 or fewer total runs took a total of just under 2 hours and 56 minutes.  It’s these low scoring games that were becoming increasingly difficult for fans to watch.  Conversely, games with 11 or more total runs took a total of 3 hours and 14 minutes.  It seems that for games with at least a difference of 7 runs scored there should have been a greater difference than 18 minutes in how long they took.

Fast forward to one month’s worth of games in 2015 (again, with the home team being an American League team):

Runs

Count

Avg. Game Time

Percentage Difference

Fewer Minutes

 1 - 4

22

159.0

9.5%

16.6

 5 - 7

44

178.7

2.2%

4.1

 8 - 10

40

179.3

4.9%

9.3

 11+

53

192.4

5.7%

11.7

As mentioned, game times are shorter across the board.  But the big drop in game times so far (at least in the American League, but likely in the National League as well) has been in the lowest scoring affairs.  Games with 4 or fewer runs now take on average only 2 hours and 39 minutes, a whopping 16 minutes fewer than last year and nearly a 10% drop in total game time from 2014.  The highest scoring games show the second biggest drop, as they take nearly 12 fewer minutes to complete than last year.  The difference between the highest and lowest scoring games is now over 33 minutes, which seems much more reasonable.

It’s difficult to say why these games are taking much less time.  The rules implemented to speed up the game, including a set clock  in between innings and forcing batters to stay in the box following most pitches, don’t seem to favor shortening one type of game more than another.  Who knows, maybe players are getting sick of being out on the field for so long for low scoring games?

Regardless, fans can start taking comfort in that going to games with the league’s best pitchers on the mound aren’t a nearly guaranteed three hour commitment like they used to be.

 



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