How long do baseball games usually last? Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the United States, widely known as “America’s national pastime.” The sport has also gathered significant global popularity, particularly in Latin America and Asia. With an average stadium attendance of more than 25,000 thousand fans, the MLB still holds a lot of sway in the hearts of American sports enthusiasts.
The game of baseball is known for its cerebral nature, involving an ongoing chess match between pitcher and batter. Significant game events, such as home runs, key strikeouts, and dazzling defensive plays, hold considerable sway. The slow pace of play enables fans to take in each nuance of a game and makes for a thinking person’s affair.
By the same token, some baseball modernists have decried that the game does not move fast enough. Many baseball thinkers believe this may contribute to a decline in popularity or lack of growth for the sport. That brings us to the question: how long is a baseball game?
How Long Is a Baseball Game in 2023?
There has never been a better time than the present to discuss the length of an average baseball game. In 2023, a pitch clock has been introduced for the first time in the history of Major League Baseball. This clock allows 15 seconds for each pitch with the bases empty and 20 with runners on.
While other measures have been taken recently to speed up gameplay, this is the most profound. With the introduction of this clock, average game times are down by around 30 minutes in 2023. According to the MLB’s official Twitter account, they’ve dropped to around 2:37 so far this season, down from 3:07 in 2022.
HOW OFFENSE HAS INCREASED, BUT THE GAME IS STILL FASTER
Interestingly, other measures have occurred going into the 2023 season to increase offensive production. This included banning the defensive shift, which enabled placing three or four infielders on one side of the field.
Infielders can no longer position themselves on the outfield grass. Larger bases have been instituted, going from 15 to 18 inches. This should increase steals while reducing player injuries.
The base changes, the pitch clock and associated rules for holding runners on base, and the shift elimination are major moves toward offensive production. We have seen a notable increase in steals (both attempted and successful). This is in addition to the overall offense (runs up 1.4 per game and a 20-point league batting average increase).
On top of it, the MLB adopted the designated hitter in the National League as of 2022, yet another boon to offense. Teams scoring runs generally equates to longer games. Still, the pitch clock’s impact is so significant that we still see a 30-minute reduction in average game lengths.
It appears that the MLB’s efforts to speed up gameplay and increase offensive production simultaneously are working. Still, time will tell if these numbers hold steady throughout the 2023 season.
The Average Length of a Baseball Game
Contrary to sports like football, basketball, and hockey, baseball has no game clock. There are there quarters, halves, or periods. A baseball game lasts as long as it lasts to complete without a timed clock for the game.
Baseball games last nine innings. In each inning, there are two halves.
In the first half, the away team bats, and the home team pitches/fields. In the second, the home team bats, and the away team pitches/fields.
If the home team is ahead after eight and a half innings, there is no need for them to bat, and the game is over. This scenario inherently shortens the length of the game.
If both teams are tied after nine innings, extra innings ensue, equivalent to overtime in games like basketball, football, and hockey. In extra innings, the innings continue until there is a winner.
The length of games is fluid and determined by how long it takes to finish nine innings (or more in the case of extra innings). Many factors go into the average game length, including how high-scoring the game is and other considerations.
As a general rule of thumb, baseball games have historically gotten longer and longer over time. Until the introduction of the pitch clock, average times in the modern era clocked in at a little over three hours. We are in uncharted territory with a rule that has taken us back in time close to 40 years in average game length.
All that to say, if you go to an MLB game in 2023, barring extra innings, you can expect it to last about two hours and 40 minutes. This is a significant change from recent years.
The Goal of a Baseball Game
The objective in baseball is to score more runs than the opposing team. Batters hit against pitchers, attempting to get on base or hit home runs. Base runners must cross home plate in one fashion or another to score runs.
When a team is pitching/fielding, they want to stop opposing hitters from reaching base and crossing home plate. When a team is batting, the objective is to get on base, cross home plate, and score runs.
How Many Innings in a Regular Baseball Game?
Baseball games that end in regulation last eight and a half innings or nine innings. This depends on whether the home team is ahead after the top of the ninth.
If the game is tied after nine innings, it goes into extra innings. These last until a team leads at the end of an inning. There are occasional exceptions, such as games that are called early due to weather.
How Long Does a Baseball Inning Last?
Traditionally, the average baseball inning lasted about 20 minutes in recent times. Yet, the length of each inning could vary drastically depending on whether hitters are getting on base and other factors.
An inning will last as long as it takes for a team to get three outs, which can either happen rapidly or take considerable time. As of 2023, we are seeing shorter average innings due to the introduction of the pitch clock, closer to the 16-18 minute range.
What Adds to the Time of Baseball Games?
Since baseball game lengths are dynamic, one might wonder why some games are longer than others. Let’s take a look at a few of these contributing factors.
Offensive Production: When teams are scoring runs, innings take longer.
Calls to the Bullpen: When a new pitcher comes in, they warm up on the mound, stopping play.
Replay Reviews/Managerial Issues: On-field replay reviews cease play and take time. Occasionally, there will also be delays due to umpire concerns with rules being followed regarding manager substitutions.
Slow Pitchers and Batters: The time taken between pitches (pitchers and hitters can both contribute to this) can be significant. This will be reduced with the new pitch clock rules.
Pick-Off Moves and Batter Timeouts: Pitchers holding runners on and hitters taking timeouts slow down gameplay. New rules associated with the pitch clock should help with this
Arguments and Fights: Verbal disagreements or brawls between players and managers/coaches on opposing teams will tack on some minutes in games. Players and managers can also get into arguments with umpires.
Player and Umpire Injuries: Even when a player or umpire is not replaced, injury timeouts will lead to extended innings when players and umpires are hit by balls or experience other issues.
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