Are Baseball Games Longer Than Ever?

Last June my friend Charles and I saw the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles. A fierce pitching duel unfolded between the O’s Chris Tillman and the Sox David Price, who struck out eleven in eight innings. Unfortunately, the Red Sox still lost 3-2. Throughout the game, Charles, a baseball writer, and I talked about the strong pitching. However, we were the only ones who appreciated it. Looking around, people seemed more interested in their Jason Varitek bobbleheads and their iPhones than the game. With baseball games longer than they were thirty years ago, are people losing interest?

It’s true that baseball games are tedious to watch. The art of hitting is appreciated by onlyBaseball Games Longer the most diehard baseball fan, but it can make baseball games longer. Hitting foul ball after foul ball gets old for fans and I can’t say I haven’t felt that way, too. So why are baseball games longer than ever? Aside from corporate reasons, it’s a combination of manager strategy, pitcher duels, injuries, instant replays, and most of all, pitching changes.

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is well aware of the complaints. In fact, Commissioner Manfred is considering limiting their use. “I am in favor of something like that,” Manfred said. “…You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good. I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers, but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers…they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.”

Personally, I hate it when relief pitchers come in during a game. The Yankees Joe Girardi’s platooning strategy, a Yankee manager favorite dating back to when Casey Stengel ran the team, is particularly infuriating. Why can’t the manager wait until the end of the inning? Because sometimes he doesn’t have a choice, especially when the pitcher’s poor performance is running up the opposing score. So the managers brings in a relief pitcher to stop the runs (if he’s good). That’s great for the team, but is it what the fans came out to see? Unless you’re a real die-hard fan, probably not. On the other hand, managers will tell you they’re not there to entertain fans. They’re there to win games, and if that means slowing the game down to win then so be it.

With Baseball Games Longer, How Do You Keep It interesting?

According to, the average length of a baseball game in 1981 was 2 hours and 33 minutes. Last season, according to the New York Post, the New York Mets completed games faster than any other team in baseball with an average time of 2 hours and 46 minutes. Last year MLB tried stop clocks. Personally, I thought they helped a lot. Turns out I’m in the minority regarding that thought.

This issue isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. To limit relievers, or anything else for that matter, would jeopardize the integrity of the game. Maybe it’s not the game that’s changed though. Maybe it’s people’s inability to focus. People’s attention spans aren’t nearly as long as they used to be, especially when iPhones and texting make us crave instant gratification more than ever.

Personally, I think the pace of baseball games would pick up faster by doing two things. The opposing team should take the field immediately following the third out, which would cut the game down by 20 minutes. Secondly, limit relief pitching, but only for Joe Girardi (Seriously, he does it too much!).

Upper Minors to Use Pitch Clock In 2015

pitch clock

The game of baseball is losing popularity with younger generations for one simple    reason—the games are so long. A lot of young people these days lack patience, so Major League Baseball is working on something to speed up the process of games.
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After successfully cutting down the length of games by using a pitch clock in the Arizona Fall League this past fall, MLB commissioner Bud Selig decided to give it a try in the upper Minors this upcoming season (AA and AAA). It will likely be the last thing he does as he is leaving office on January 25th when Rob Manfred will be coming in from relief to replace him.

pitch clockIn the Arizona Fall League, there was a 12 second time limit between pitches no one on base, but the limit was increased to 20 seconds with runners on. If the pitcher did not throw the ball in the allotted time, it was called a ball.
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Arizona Diamondbacks top prospect who started his team’s first game in the Fall League went about everything normally, but said, “Then I look at the clock and it’s already at 14 seconds,” Bradley said of the time remaining before the next pitch. “I’m like, oh jeez!”

Combined with time limits between innings and a rule that did not allow batters to step out of the box, the Arizona Fall League was able to shave 10 minutes off each game it was used.

From a Minor League reporter’s perspective, this is great news. It will certainly be a nice change in pace given how long some games can drag on for what seems like an eternity– especially if there is a rain delay.
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Right now, Major League Baseball has a 12 second pitch rule (Rule 8.04) but it is never enforced because there is not a visible pitch clock. If this experiment goes over well in the Minors, perhaps it makes it’s way to the big leagues in 2016.