MLB games averaging 2 hours, 37 minutes after a week of spring training, would be fastest pace since 1979

The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs 6-3 Tuesday at spring training in Arizona.

It wasn’t a very interesting game. Cubs pitcher Drew Smiley took a lot of hits in his first Cactus League start, allowing five hits and two runs in two innings of work. Abraham Toro and Nelson Velasquez both entered the game in later innings and home runs. The team came together to field 13 pitchers to get to work.

An interesting figure ended up at the bottom of the rankings, and last year it would have been shocking. Game time: two hours 11 minutes.

Plays like this have become the norm in this year’s spring training thanks to the introduction of MLB’s pitching clock, which requires pitchers to start their pitch within 15 seconds of receiving the ball with empty bases and 20 seconds with on-base runners, while batters must be ready with eight seconds remaining on the clock. Data from one week of play shows MLB moving towards its fastest pace in decades.

Two hours 37 minutes.

That’s how long the average nine-inning game between MLB teams in spring training lasts this year, and the clock is 94 games. This number includes games with split rosters, but does not include games involving non-MLB teams or games announced early due to rain.

This pace of play is 29 minutes shorter than last year’s average playing time of three hours and six minutes, which itself is a five-minute improvement from the 2021 record of three hours and 11 minutes. baseball handbook data. Almost half an hour of free time, which is usually spent watching people walk around and look at each other, per game.

In comparison, a game that ran six minutes longer than a Brewers-Cubs game was considered so fast. it made national headlines final postseason. Meanwhile, the game with the same score on the last day of last year’s season between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox lasted three hours and 21 minutes.

If MLB games averaged two hours and 37 minutes, it would be the fastest paced game since 1979. Of course, in the regular season, this number is likely to be different for several reasons.

How will field hours affect the MLB regular season?

The big caveat to average game length at the moment is that spring practice games have major differences from regular season games, but those differences can still lengthen games, meaning upcoming regular season games could be even shorter.

This week’s games averaged 11.35 runs per game, up 2.78 from last year’s regular season average. This is likely due to the lower pitching quality, both with pitchers still picking up speed, and with teams diving much deeper into their organization’s hand depth charts.

Because more runs correlate with longer games, the regular season could move at an even faster pace once the scoreboard settles down.

MESA, ARIZONA - MARCH 01: Trey Mancini #36 of
It’s been a week of spring training, MLB clocks are running. (Photo by Chris Koduto/Getty Images)

On the other hand, spring practice games aren’t usually intense enough to see mid-inning pitching changes, and they don’t go into extra innings, so naturally they can be a bit shorter than usual. But even that reduction may be a little overstated, as last year’s nine-inning game average was still three hours and three minutes, and we haven’t seen that figure drop below two hours and 37 minutes since 1984.

Games are likely to take less time now than we hoped and expected. The result is a product that goes back to when baseball was at its peak, even if there were some hiccups here and there.

What about other MLB rule changes?

MLB’s innings clock is the most notable rule change this year, but it’s not the only rule change.

The league also banned shifts, limited interception attempts, and increased the size of its bases. The intention behind the moves is to adjust the style of play for more balls in play and stolen bases – a direct rebuff to the much-mourned Three true outcomes– the severe state of the modern game – and it looks like these changes can also work.

Entering on Thursday team statistics on the MLB website This spring, there was a .319 ball-in-game average, a statistic that measures how often balls in a game turn into outs. The league’s regular season mark has steadily declined over the past five years as turnovers have become more common, from .300 in 2017 to .290 last season.

It should be noted that spring training BABIPs are usually inflated due to the lower quality of the defense, but 0.319 is still slightly above the 0.310 to 0.314 range over the last four full spring training sessions.

JJ Cooper of Baseball America Thursday also noted that base steal rates, both attempts and success, have risen sharply, from 0.77 attempts per game and 72.9% success in spring training last year to 1.16 and 80.6% this year. year. The Cincinnati Reds stole 14 bases in 14 tries in their first five games.

Basically, you should be ready for more base hits, more stolen bases, and less waiting time this season, which is what MLB wanted. Whether this is good or not, given the changes, is up to you.


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