How long is a baseball game ? After a tense lockout in the 2020-2021 offseason, the Major League Baseball season is in full swing, giving prospective fans another opportunity to fall in love with America’s pastime.
But a new fan might have questions, such as how much time they should carve out of their schedule to soak up a game. There is an investment of time to catch a game, but the league is taking steps to try and shorten the MLB game experience.
How long is a baseball game?
There is no set game clock in baseball like in basketball, football, hockey or soccer. The pro game consists of nine innings. Each inning is divided into halves (also known as the “top” and “bottom” of the inning), with one team batting in each half. The duration of each half-inning is determined by how quickly the pitching team can secure three outs. The away team bats at the top of the inning, followed by the home team. If the home team is ahead after eight and a half innings, the game ends early. If the game is still tied after nine innings, it goes into extra innings until a winner emerges.
Needless to say, the self-determined pace can make for long games. Last season, the average nine-inning MLB game was three hours and 10 minutes long, according to statistics compiled by baseball-reference.com
The average length of a nine-inning MLB regular season game over the last 10 seasons is just north of three hours. The last time the average length was less than three hours was in 2015.
League executives have made it a point to cut down average game times. Officials have mulled adding a pitch clock, similar to a shot clock in basketball or the pre-snap play clock in football. The pitch clock was introduced this season in the minor leagues, USA TODAY Sports reported, where officials say it has trimmed game times by 20 minutes. The pitch clock could come to the major league as soon as 2023.
How the MLB’s new rules are changing the game
Nearly two weeks into Major League Baseball’s 2023 season, players and fans are getting used to the sport’s new rules and how they’re changing the game.
During the offseason, the MLB implemented a pitch clock, larger bases and restrictions on infield shifts, as the Deseret News previously reported. Game data shows that, as intended, these changes have led to shorter games with more offense, including more base steals.
“Thanks largely to the pitch timer, the average time of game is down to 2:38 per nine innings this season. It was 3:03 last season and 2:38 is the lowest since 1984 (2:35),” CBS Sports reported last week.
CBS Sports also found that players’ performance at bat has improved compared to past seasons, which likely stems in part from the new infield shifting rules. And once successful batters are on base, they’re having more luck with steal attempts.
“MLB is currently on pace for 3,107 successful stolen bases. That would be the most since 2012 (3,229) and up from 2,486 last year,” CBS Sports reported.
On opening day, “both the Pirates and Reds starters had a pitch clock violation and both of those plate appearances ended in home runs for the batter,” The Athletic reported. “During spring training, managers and players around the league expressed concern that a game might end on a pitch clock violation or amid a situation where a tight game becomes too rushed for the moment.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said league officials are willing to tweak pitch clock rules depending on what they see in the data, adding that he hopes “umpires will exercise some discretion late in games to allow for slower, tense moments.”
But even with lingering anxiety over how the new rules will affect the game’s biggest moments, most baseball insiders are big fans of the changes.
“There’s more stuff going on and less waiting around for that stuff to happen,” CBS Sports reported.
Baseball’s Pitch Clock Has Transformed Game Length—and Not Just in the Obvious Way
At approximately 9:19 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, April 25, San Francisco Giants rookie catcher Blake Sabol capped off a three-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth by taking a two-out, two-strike breaking ball from St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley over the center-field fence in San Francisco. At 9:22, the Giants’ Twitter account declared victory.
One minute later, the Royals’ Twitter account followed suit: In Phoenix, K.C. closer Scott Barlow had gotten a grounder to third from Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker for the final out of the game. Three minutes after that, it was the Angels’ turn to celebrate: In Anaheim, Oakland’s last hope, Esteury Ruiz, had grounded out to second against Angels closer Carlos Estévez. One minute, there were still three MLB games going on; roughly six minutes later, all three were over, and baseball was done for the day.
If you had to pick one day from this season to sum up the impact of the pitch clock, you could do worse than that day: last Tuesday, April 25. All 30 MLB teams were in action, and on average, they took two hours and 36 minutes to go about their baseball business, exactly in line with the full-season standard for nine-inning games in 2023.
That alone is remarkable, given that nine-inning games in 2022 took three hours and three minutes, on average, which was actually less time than they took in each of the three preceding years.
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How Long Do Baseball Games Last?
Every season since 2016, the average length of a Major League Baseball game has been at least three hours long. In 2022, it was three hours and three minutes.
In 2021, the average game length was 3:10, which is the longest in MLB history.
Many fans feel that’s just too long, which is why MLB has introduced a new pitch clock system for the 2023 season.
As a result, baseball games should play faster and end sooner.
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