How long is the average mlb game? Major League Baseball gave media members access to new data ahead of Rob Manfred’s press conference at the 2023 MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, demonstrating the significant impact of this past offseason’s rule changes on the sport.
The implementation of the pitch clock was one of the biggest sticking points in the baseball community over the past few years, but it has certainly made games shorter. Two years after the average game time reached an all-time high of 3:10 in 2021, the average length of a nine-inning MLB game in 2023 has dropped all the way down to 2:38.
And according to the league, 60% of games do not feature a pitch clock violation by either team. 28% feature a single pitch clock violation, while 9% feature two, 2% feature three and only 1% feature four or more.
Violations have also steadily declined since the start of the season, with the league averaging 0.23 per game over the last 100 games compared to 0.87 in the first 100 games.
The league-wide batting average has gone from .243 in 2022 to .248 in 2023, and the average number of runs has gone from 8.6 to 9.2. This year’s strikeout rate of 22.7%, meanwhile, remains comparable to last year’s 22.4%.
Those numbers are also impacted by the infield shift getting banned, which had been another point of contention with fans, players and media members alike.
Across the league, batting average on balls in play was at .292 in 2021 and .290 in 2022. That number has inched up to .297 so far in 2023, but it has managed to significantly even the playing field in another way.
Right-handed and left-handed hitters are both batting .297 on balls in play this year. Righties’ BABIP was 12 points higher than lefties’ in 2022 and eight points higher in 2021, for reference.
The pitch clock and increased base sizes have also impacted baserunning so far this season.
In 2021, there was an average of 1.2 stolen base attempts per game, which was the lowest the league had seen since the 1960s. Teams are now attempting 1.8 steals per game – which is the most in over a decade – while also succeeding on 4.0% more of those attempts compared to 2022.
MLB presented all of that data alongside new attendance numbers, likely in an attempt to insinuate that the rule changes have been embraced by fans.
League-wide attendance is up 8.1% compared to 2022, with 23 of the 30 clubs seeing positive year-over-year growth and 12 teams seeing a boost of 10% or better. Attendance in June reached its highest point since 2017, and Father’s Day attendance broke 600,000 for the first time since 2008.
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.
This is the lowest average game time since 1984 when they averaged 2:35. The sample size is still relatively small as the season is young. Still, it appears that we should see average game times in the 2:30 – 2:40 range as long as the current pitch clock rules are in place.
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.
How long are MLB games in 2023?
The average nine inning baseball game in 2023 is two hours and thirty-eight minutes. In 2022, the average game was three hours and three minutes.
There are consequences for pitchers and batters if either is in violation of the rules. Pitchers are charged with an automatic ball and batters are charged with an automatic strike for pitch clock violations. A pitcher is charged a balk for violating the disengagement rule.
One frustration of the rule is that certain special moments in the game call for more time, and this now needs to be planned in order to avoid a violation. MLB requires a team to submit a request 24 hours in advance if they expect fans to give a standing ovation for a player. Earlier this season, Cody Bellinger was a victim of this scenario. The former Dodger returned to Los Angeles for the first time in a Chicago Cubs uniform and received a standing ovation from the crowd when he came up to the plate. Bellinger was charged with a pitch clock violation. Nice moment ruined.
In another instance, Teoscar Hernandez was given a standing ovation by Blue Jays fans in his first return to Toronto since becoming a Seattle Mariner. No pitch clock violation was called because a request was submitted in advance.
Are pitchers at more of a disadvantage than hitters and runners?
Baseball has been criticized as a game that takes too long. MLB games are faster this year, which perhaps draws fans in, but are the changes hurting the players, particularly the pitchers?
The MLB rule changes have required pitchers to adjust how quickly they’re pitching to adhere to a certain pace. They also need to remember they’re only allowed to throw over to a base twice per at-bat. Pitchers used to constantly check the runner at first, which slowed down the game, but it also allowed them to keep a close eye on runners.
The disengagement portion of the rule allows runners to feel more confident in attempting to steal bases. If a pitcher has already thrown over twice, the runner knows the pitcher can’t check on them again unless they advance. This increases the pressure that pitchers feel.
Earlier this month, ESPN asked MLB players their favorite part about the rule changes. San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell responded, “None that I can think of.” Snell is frustrated with the increase in stolen bases. He said, “If you pick twice, they’re getting crazy jumps and leads. Stolen bases are a joke.” His frustration is understandable.
New York Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka feels similarly about the pickoff rule and believes it’s unfair to catchers, as well. He told ESPN that the rule hangs catchers out to dry because there’s not much more they can do other than make sure the pitchers are quick to the plate and be strategic about throws.
Chicago White Sox shortstop Elvis Andrus countered that hitters are negatively impacted by the pitch clock, as well. He expressed that he doesn’t want to be rushed during an at-bat. Snell acknowledged that hitters are rushed, too.
Many of the players seem to be coming around to the changes, though. Higashioka was unsure about the pitch clock at first. “Now I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me,” he said. He thought the game would feel rushed and that there would be less time for processing, but he’s gotten used to the changes. Players have learned the rules at this point.
There are growing pains for players with the MLB rule changes, but over time, the new normal will feel more comfortable for them. Shorter baseball games are here to stay.
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