Slow games

sueh1

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Hi. I have read many pieces mentioning this, but I'd love to hear some of you folks weigh in. In the past couple of years, I haven't watched too many regular season games, for various reasons. However, I did go to my usual one or two games at Fenway-2 this year, including the Sunday night Yankees game.

I could not effing believe how slow that game moved. It started a bit after 8-by maybe 10, we were still in the bottom of the fifth, and I think they had just trotted out the 4th pitcher of the night. This was not, for us, a game worth leaving Fenway after midnight for, so we left. Game did end after midnight!

So...is this really a Red Sox/Yankees thing? A 2019 Red Sox thing? An all over MLB thing? I swear, it was excruciating-every at-bat felt like 20 pitches. I have read a piece (by someone whose name I won't mention) saying that all the joy was being sucked out of baseball-teams concentrating on strikeouts to keep balls out of play, and batters concentrating on upping the pitchers' counts to get them out of the game.

Any thoughts, or did I just pick two really bad games (the other one was in late May, and also boring as hell)? I even saw Yankees fans leaving the game with me-they (probably) went out of their way to come here, and their team was winning, and they weren't even into it.
 

sueh1

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Yes.

The Sox have the longest games, but all games average well over 3 hours now (near 3:10, IIRC).

Good thread here: https://sonsofsamhorn.net/index.php?threads/baseball-is-broken-on-the-field-proposed-rule-changes-attendance-etc.23672/
Thanks, great thread! I had thought of limiting how many pitchers a team can use per inning. If you can’t get 3 outs with 2 or 3, tough.

I could have handled 3 hours, but for 4 + for a non extra innings game is ridiculous.
 
Aug 11, 2019
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I think most fans could handle a 3 hour game, it's the pace of play that's killing it for me. Way too many wandering batters & slow-ass pitchers.
I've followed baseball for much longer than just about everyone on this board. The 1955 Red Sox played 154 games at an average time of 2 hours 34 minutes, of which 12 were extra inning games (10 to 13 innings) that averaged 3:16. The games that didn't go into extra innings (142) averaged 2:30.5 with a range of 1:49 to 3:26. Nearly half their games lasted less than 2:30 and about 70% lasted less than 2:45.

Maybe I got accustomed to games like that but I sure don't care for 3-hour+ games. It might not be as bad if there ween't three announcers babbling in the booth, frequently about anything but the game being played. And the commercials. I don't know about you people, but commercials have the opposite effect on me than are intended: many make sure I won't buy their product.
 

The Allented Mr Ripley

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The biggest culprit in increasingly longer game times compared to other eras has been identified time and again: time between pitches. Whether it's due to pitchers taking too long to throw, or batters stepping out constantly, there's just too much time between pitches.

It's not pitching changes or commercials. Institute a pitch clock at the MLB level and be done with it.
 

twibnotes

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The biggest culprit in increasingly longer game times compared to other eras has been identified time and again: time between pitches. Whether it's due to pitchers taking too long to throw, or batters stepping out constantly, there's just too much time between pitches.

It's not pitching changes or commercials. Institute a pitch clock at the MLB level and be done with it.
Amen. It’s not that complicated

I’ll never understand why the players union has fought this. Maybe they think it’s leverage for some other ask, but they’re killing the young guys whose pay day is in the future. The game desperately needs the pitch clock for its long term popularity.
 

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The biggest culprit in increasingly longer game times compared to other eras has been identified time and again: time between pitches. Whether it's due to pitchers taking too long to throw, or batters stepping out constantly, there's just too much time between pitches.

It's not pitching changes or commercials. Institute a pitch clock at the MLB level and be done with it.
How do you handle the pitch clock with runners on base?
 

Max Power

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How do you handle the pitch clock with runners on base?
You either don't have it or have it reset on a pickoff attempt. But even if it were only used with the bases empty, if pitchers got used to pitching quickly in those situations, they'd likely keep a quicker rhythm going for the rest of the game.

Part of the problem with runners on base is that everyone thinks their signs are being stolen. We need some technology to let pitchers and catchers communicate without manual signs. That would make every single pitch a few seconds quicker.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The biggest culprit in increasingly longer game times compared to other eras has been identified time and again: time between pitches. Whether it's due to pitchers taking too long to throw, or batters stepping out constantly, there's just too much time between pitches.

It's not pitching changes or commercials. Institute a pitch clock at the MLB level and be done with it.
Truth. Although if we're going to compare game times to 1955 like stepson_and_toe, TV and commercial breaks are definitely a part of the increase there. But we're looking at increased game times now even compared to the 1980s when TV coverage was much more prevalent. The pacing of games has slowed significantly in the TV era, in part because I think players grow up watching guys linger between pitches and feel like it's routine. Kids emulate their heroes, and we're well into a generation of players that watched players like Nomar with his glove tightening, toe-tapping routine and came up with their own idiosyncrasies.
 

8slim

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The biggest culprit in increasingly longer game times compared to other eras has been identified time and again: time between pitches. Whether it's due to pitchers taking too long to throw, or batters stepping out constantly, there's just too much time between pitches.

It's not pitching changes or commercials. Institute a pitch clock at the MLB level and be done with it.
Agree completely. The game is being played at a glacial pace. Not only should there be a pitch clock, but it needs to be tight (15 seconds? Maybe less) *and* they should institute it at all professional levels so pitchers get used to it from the start of their careers.
 
Aug 11, 2019
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Not only should there be a pitch clock, but it needs to be tight (15 seconds? Maybe less)
A problem with a pitch clock is runners on base, particularly first. How do you keep a runner from taking a large lead unless you let the pitcher throw to the bag? About 20% of the time this season a batter is up with a runner on 1st or runners on 1st and 3rd (and there are runners on base about 43% of the time). Is there a rational solution that does not give the edge to the offensive or defensive team or that does not give an edge to slower runners or impede faster ones?
 

8slim

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A problem with a pitch clock is runners on base, particularly first. How do you keep a runner from taking a large lead unless you let the pitcher throw to the bag? About 20% of the time this season a batter is up with a runner on 1st or runners on 1st and 3rd (and there are runners on base about 43% of the time). Is there a rational solution that does not give the edge to the offensive or defensive team or that does not give an edge to slower runners or impede faster ones?
Stop the clock when a pitcher throws to first? I haven't thought all that deeply about this issue, but it doesn't strike me as an unsolvable problem.
 

The Gray Eagle

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They've been using the pitch clock in the minors since 2015, and it's helping the games play at a faster pace.

The idea is to get young pitchers used to the clock and used to pitching faster. They need to add it to the majors. And enforce the rules that already exist about stepping out of the batter's box.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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I've followed baseball for much longer than just about everyone on this board. The 1955 Red Sox played 154 games at an average time of 2 hours 34 minutes, of which 12 were extra inning games (10 to 13 innings) that averaged 3:16. The games that didn't go into extra innings (142) averaged 2:30.5 with a range of 1:49 to 3:26. Nearly half their games lasted less than 2:30 and about 70% lasted less than 2:45.

Maybe I got accustomed to games like that but I sure don't care for 3-hour+ games. It might not be as bad if there ween't three announcers babbling in the booth, frequently about anything but the game being played. And the commercials. I don't know about you people, but commercials have the opposite effect on me than are intended: many make sure I won't buy their product.
This is it -- length of play has certainly curtailed my enjoyment, and it makes me less likely to attend a game. I don't buy the misty-eyed sentimentality of "the game doesn't need a clock."

This Baseball Reference page tells the story:

Average game length 2019: 3:09 -- and that is after Manfred made a stink about speed of play.

In 2000 it was 3:01

In 1990 it was 2:51

in 1980 it was 2:38

in 1970 it was 2:34.

When I attend a baseball game in 2019 (which I do with decreasing frequency given that it is such a drag) I see the same amount of action I would have seen in 2:30 as a youth, with 30 minutes of standing around and or/over-managing the bullpen. I went to the Braves game last Saturday -- a routine game, not extra innings a, 5-4 Braves victory. It took 3:29. That was an extra hour of non-action. Nothing happened in that extra hour that was worth paying for -- between the two teams I got to witness NINE pitching changes and batters stepping out of the box just as the pitcher started to set.

I mean, I'm old enough that I'll still be a fan, but I suspect MLB is risking the next generation of fans.
 
Last edited:
Aug 11, 2019
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I mean, I'm old enough that I'll still be a fan, but I suspect MLB is risking the next generation of fans.
I belong to a small group that has a long weekend every year at minor league venues, something we've been doing since 1991, and I have been seeing a lengthening in game time for them, also, especially in Triple A, now filtering down to lower levels. Triple A was the gateway to the majors but nowadays it has basically become the holding pen for replacement players--marginal MLB'ers/AAAA players--and Double A has become the feed for MLB.
 

Green Monster

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I guess mound visits and intentional base-on-balls weren't the issue.

Another factor that no one has mentioned yet, is instant replay.....As someone who lived thru the Chuck Knoblach phantom tag, I am all for getting the call correct. However, it seems to take much longer than necessary. We as fans are sitting there looking at multiple angles showing an obvious result and those "back in NY" seem to take forever. Replay has a place but they need to figure out a way to streamline it.
 

tims4wins

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From the other SoSH thread linked above, read this


Time between pitches is the primary villain. I tallied up all the pitches in both games that we’ll call inaction pitches — pitches that resulted in a ball, called strike, or swinging strike, but didn’t result in the end of an at-bat or the advancement of a runner. These are the pitches where the catcher caught the ball and threw it back to the pitcher, whose next step was to throw it back to the catcher. Foul balls didn’t count. The fourth ball of a plate appearance didn’t count. Stolen bases didn’t count. Wild pitches didn’t count. Just the pitches where contact wasn’t made, and the pitcher received a return throw from the catcher.

There were 146 inaction pitches in the 1984 game.

There were 144 of these pitches in the 2014 game.

The total time for the inaction pitches in 1984 — the elapsed time between a pitcher releasing one pitch and his release of the next pitch — was 32 minutes and 47 seconds.

The total time for inaction pitches in 2014 was 57 minutes and 41 seconds.

In the 1984 game, there were 70 inaction pitches that were returned to the pitcher and thrown back to the plate within 15 seconds.

In the 2014 game, there were 10.

In the 1984 game, there were 32 balls, called strikes, or swinging strikes that took 20 seconds or more between pitches

In 2014, there were 87 balls, called strikes, or swinging strikes that took 20 seconds or more between pitches.

That’s it. That’s the secret. It isn’t just the commercials. It isn’t just the left-handed pitchers coming in to face one batter, even though that absolutely makes a huge difference in the games when that does happen.

It’s not like every at-bat in the 2014 game was rotten with hitters doing a Nomar Garciaparra impression between pitches, either. It was a marked difference in the modern players doing absolutely nothing of note. The batter taking an extra breath before he steps back in. The pitcher holding the ball for an extra beat.
 

Green Monster

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MLB has already lost a generation of fans. I won't say that game length/pace of play is the largest contributing factor to that, but it certainly can't help.
Gotta agree with this.......As an example, Both of my boys have played college baseball and love the game but they very seldom watch it (accept maybe playoffs/ world series). They much prefer to play a video game and watch the baseball highlights afterward.
 

brs3

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There's a fundamental change within the game that I think has been touched upon a lot with regard to launch angle and teams forgoing small ball for home runs. We see the shift all the time, and players dinking hits over shift and the next guy up grounding into double plays. I did a quick look at GDPs by team over the last few seasons and there isn't a big change but I didn't look over 20 years or anything. I feel like I'm seeing more DPs, but perhaps not.

What I did see is that 7 teams are averaging 4 pitches per at bat(could change w/ 20 games remaining), and last season there were only 3 with 4.00(3 more with 3,99), and only 1 team in 2017 that hit 4.00. So we're seeing more pitches thrown per at bats, but what's the result? I don't have time to dig into this deeper, but I'm curious whether or not games are slower because of the fundamental decisions to let go of oppo field hits and moving runners over for the launch angle/perfect pitch to put a team ahead. More pitches, less action, longer games.
 

Green Monster

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What I did see is that 7 teams are averaging 4 pitches per at bat(could change w/ 20 games remaining), and last season there were only 3 with 4.00(3 more with 3,99), and only 1 team in 2017 that hit 4.00. So we're seeing more pitches thrown per at bats, but what's the result? I don't have time to dig into this deeper, but I'm curious whether or not games are slower because of the fundamental decisions to let go of oppo field hits and moving runners over for the launch angle/perfect pitch to put a team ahead. More pitches, less action, longer games.
Interesting.....There might be a connection with the increase in pitches/at bat to the increase in strikeouts.
 

8slim

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From the other SoSH thread linked above, read this


Time between pitches is the primary villain. I tallied up all the pitches in both games that we’ll call inaction pitches — pitches that resulted in a ball, called strike, or swinging strike, but didn’t result in the end of an at-bat or the advancement of a runner. These are the pitches where the catcher caught the ball and threw it back to the pitcher, whose next step was to throw it back to the catcher. Foul balls didn’t count. The fourth ball of a plate appearance didn’t count. Stolen bases didn’t count. Wild pitches didn’t count. Just the pitches where contact wasn’t made, and the pitcher received a return throw from the catcher.

There were 146 inaction pitches in the 1984 game.

There were 144 of these pitches in the 2014 game.

The total time for the inaction pitches in 1984 — the elapsed time between a pitcher releasing one pitch and his release of the next pitch — was 32 minutes and 47 seconds.

The total time for inaction pitches in 2014 was 57 minutes and 41 seconds.

In the 1984 game, there were 70 inaction pitches that were returned to the pitcher and thrown back to the plate within 15 seconds.

In the 2014 game, there were 10.

In the 1984 game, there were 32 balls, called strikes, or swinging strikes that took 20 seconds or more between pitches

In 2014, there were 87 balls, called strikes, or swinging strikes that took 20 seconds or more between pitches.

That’s it. That’s the secret. It isn’t just the commercials. It isn’t just the left-handed pitchers coming in to face one batter, even though that absolutely makes a huge difference in the games when that does happen.

It’s not like every at-bat in the 2014 game was rotten with hitters doing a Nomar Garciaparra impression between pitches, either. It was a marked difference in the modern players doing absolutely nothing of note. The batter taking an extra breath before he steps back in. The pitcher holding the ball for an extra beat.
This is fascinating, thanks for sharing.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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While this doesn't address your point about instant replay, what annoys me about it is the showing of replays from earlier innings, past games.
If they did that instead of showing live action it would be bad, but if it's just to fill that long time between pitches, well, I think we know the problem isn't showing replays.

And most games have zero or 1 Replay Review, so you're talking 3 minutes or so every other game. Replay Review is a VERY small part of the problem. Getting rid of that won't help as much as limiting mound visits did, which wasn't much
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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How would a time clock work though? is it the same clock for the batter and the pitcher? Pitchers always have to wait around for the batter to get their shit together and get into the box before they go through their own little pre-pitch routine. Would something like the batter has 15 seconds after the previous pitch is called to get back into the box and then the pitcher has another 15 seconds to deliver the pitch? If it's just a 30 second pitch clock, then the batter has a massive advantage to let the clock run down to 27 seconds and then step in..... or can the pitcher just pitch away before the batter is even ready? I'd love to see pitchers receive the ball from the catcher and quickly send a K down the middle while the batter is scratching his ass with the bat jammed into his crotch....
 
Aug 11, 2019
64
Just to clarify, when I mentioned replay I was referring to challenging a call on the field.... Not showing highlights.
Yeah. I did say that I wasn't addressing your point about instant replay. Perhaps I should have just made a separate comment.

What I don't like about challenges is the expectation that umpires should be perfect while imperfection in players is taken for granted. An umpire may be in the proper position when making a call but because of arms/legs/bodies he might not get a clear view; however, a camera viewing the play from 180° opposite might see it. Why "penalize" the umpire? Like a pitcher who can't throw strikes, perhaps an umpires who misses a lot of calls should be seeking a new job.
 
Aug 11, 2019
64
To add some framework to all this, assume
---300 pitches per game
---full nine inning games, which means 17 commercials breaks
---commercial break length = 2.75 minutes, which would mean 46.75 minutes per game

Then, if there were:
---10 seconds per pitch, that would add 50 minutes to the game time, or 1 hour, 36.75 minutes
---15 seconds per pitch, 2 hours, 1.75 minutes game time
---20 seconds per pitch, 2 hours, 26.75 minutes game time

There is a limit to how much time can be cut from commercial breaks as there is some time needed for the actual changing of sides but a factor with more impact is the loss of income from sponsors. Some of this could be overcome by in-inning commercials (which we are already starting to see), commercials on fences, uniforms.

Roughly 57% of the plate appearances this season have come with the bases empty so imposing automatic balls and strikes in this situation could help. Tell batters they have H-number of seconds to be ready to hit; if they are not ready, a strike will be called. Tell pitchers they have P-number of seconds to throw the pitch once the batter is set; if they don't a ball will be called. It shouldn't take long before that sorts things out in that situation.

Now all that remains is cutting the number of pitches...which may be a little harder. Lay out a line at the back of home plate parallel to the line from 1st to 3rd: any two strike foul tip in back of that line counts as a third strike, whether or not it is caught by the catcher.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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You can do this AND get the call right with Replay review.

Do you know how much time Replay reviews add on average to the average game?
My bet would be that the time taken up by replay reviews is roughly the same amount of time that used to be wasted by the manager coming out to argue calls with umpires. At least now there's the opportunity for a bad call to be made right, which was rarely ever the case when a manager decided to go nose to nose with an ump for five minutes.
 

MakeMineMoxie

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2 or 3 years ago there was a briefly enforced rule that batters couldn't step out of the box, once in. Easy to reinstate and enforce that rule.

Faster games also mean less verbiage from bad announcers
Yeah, I've complained about this, too. Is it the umps deciding to just not enforce it or did the Players Association make a stink? If it's the latter, then we have the tail wagging the dog, just as with the pitch clock. I think the PA has done a tremendous job improving the players rights in the game but players don't care if every game takes 4 hours or each pitch 2 minutes, they just want to win & too bad if it bores the fans. MLB is responsible for on-field changes to protect the product, not the PA. Sure, ask for their input but don't be afraid to implement changes unilaterally. Same with the umps union but that's another rant.
 

LoweTek

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Don't forget, prior to the 90's all we had was one or two "national" games per week on over the air TV. It really wasn't until well into the 2000's most MLB teams were broadcasting all or most of their games via cable. In the 70's and 80's and certainly prior, I have to believe only a very small percentage of all games were televised at all. This had to have an impact on length of games as television eventually became a primary revenue source for most teams. TV subsequently made the rules about about between inning stoppages (commercial time), especially for marquis broadcasts such as the All-Star Game, playoffs and World Series.
 
Aug 11, 2019
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You can do this AND get the call right with Replay review.

Do you know how much time Replay reviews add on average to the average game?
Here is a link to some papers (PDF files):
David W. Smith, head of Project Retrosheet: Time Between Pitches: Cause of Long Games? presented at the SABR convention this year
Why Do Games Take So Long? by Dave, presented at the SABR convention in 2018
A Replays Replay by Mark Pankin using data compiled by David Vincent (2014-through mid-2016), presented at the SABR convention in 2016
Expanded Replay Usage for 2019 (and near the top of the page are links going back to the 2014 season, also at the bottom is a link to home run replays). I believe this was started by the late David Vincent.

Retrosheet Data is copyrighted but they have a liberal use policy (I'm not certain how one approaches the papers by by others using the data--best to ask).
 

joyofsox

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BRef has the Red Sox with an average game time of 3:24, a full 7 minutes more than the Brewers and 8 minutes more than the Angles. The Tigers are at the bottom at 3:01.

There have been 28 nine-inning games lasting 4:00+. Boston has played 6 of them, with the Dodgers at 4 and a handful of teams at 3 (including the Yankees and Rays). Two of the three longest nine-inning games this year were the two Red Sox/Yankees games in London. (After that, the Red Sox had none of the next-longest 14 games.)

David W. Smith, head of Project Retrosheet: Time Between Pitches: Cause of Long Games? presented at the SABR convention this year
I was in San Diego and this was a fascinating presentation.
 

sueh1

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BRef has the Red Sox with an average game time of 3:24, a full 7 minutes more than the Brewers and 8 minutes more than the Angles. The Tigers are at the bottom at 3:01.

There have been 28 nine-inning games lasting 4:00+. Boston has played 6 of them, with the Dodgers at 4 and a handful of teams at 3 (including the Yankees and Rays). Two of the three longest nine-inning games this year were the two Red Sox/Yankees games in London. (After that, the Red Sox had none of the next-longest 14 games.)


I was in San Diego and this was a fascinating presentation.
Well, the one I went to Sunday night was just over 4, although I don’t know exactly, since I was driving and not listening to game.
 
Aug 11, 2019
64
I don't have to read papers to know the answer. Replay review isn't the first, second, or third issue here
Then why did you ask this question, "Do you know how much time Replay reviews add on average to the average game? But as you also remarked, "I don't have to read the papers to know the answer." So don't read them.
 

geoduck no quahog

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Data aside, I can reiterate that the annoyance is not the length of games, it’s the time between pitches and the time it takes for the in-inning relievers. Dead time.

Associated with that is the stalling tactics to get a reliever ready.

Batters need to get in the box ready to swing. I’ll give them a break because of the danger in their position, so step out once for eye problems but let the umps control it (they know when insects or dust devils are around the plate causing problems).

Other than that, a pitch clock has become mandatory. There are ways to deal with base runners

Also (small thing) just get rid of the ridiculous God Bless America break. We’re all Patriots here. We don’t need to sing about it. America’s stupid if that’s the case.
 

Humphrey

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I read somewhere that the number of foul balls has increased by 10% in the last 15 or so years. Unquestionably, the number of pitches in a game has risen as well and is contributing heavily to the game length increase.

Forcing a reliever to face three batters (in the same inning) will help a small bit.

By the way, congrats to the Red Sox on finding a way to use 9 pitchers in a 9 inning game.