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Baseball is going to die a rapid death if they don’t do something drastic about the pace of play.
I’ve had full season tickets to the Milwaukee Brewers for 25 seasons. Before I got married and had kids I always went to 70-plus games a season. I’d even take half-day vacation time to go to the weekday day games. My best season in 2001 I attended a total of 85 games (two pre-season, two road games, and all 81 home games), and I only left one game early, it was a weeknight that it went into extra innings and I was the ride for a friend who couldn’t stay any longer.
I’ve sat through to the end of 16-1 blow-out losses (“Hey, three or four grand slams, we’re right back in this one”). One of my favorite baseball memories is attending double-headers on consecutive days in July 1997 – in the first game, Steve Woodard made his major league debut against Roger Clemens, gave up a lead-off double to Otis Nixon, then proceeded to strike out the side, set a league record by striking out 11 (or was it 12?) in his debut, and won the game 1-0. In the second game of that doubleheader, the Brewers turned their first Triple play in something like 17 years.
So I take a backseat to no one claiming to be a fan of the game.
But it’s getting downright unwatchable. In 1982, the average time of a nine-inning MLB game was 2:35. In 2019 (so far), it’s 3:04.
Yes, there are more pitching changes (pitchers/game has increased from 2.62 to 4.27). But that’s not what appears to be driving the time difference.
On April 13, 1984, the Mets played the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The home team won, 11-2. Both teams combined to throw 270 pitches. Both teams combined to allow 27 baserunners, and 74 batters came to the plate. There was exactly one mid-inning pitching change.
On April 17, 2014, the Brewers played the Pirates at PNC Park. The home team won, 11-2. Both teams combined to throw 268 pitches. Both teams combined to allow 27 baserunners, and 75 batters came to the plate. There was exactly one mid-inning pitching change.
The game from 1984 lasted two hours and 31 minutes.
The game from 2014 lasted three hours and six minutes.
Our goal is to figure out where the extra 35 minutes came from.
Read the whole thing, but here’s the conclusion:
It took nine seconds longer for a pitcher to get rid of the ball in 2014.
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.
Baseball needs a pitch clock. And it needs to be an aggressive one. They also need to keep the batter in the box between pitches.
I like that baseball isn’t ruled by the clock. But there’s too much standing around doing nothing.
You take a nine-inning game and play it in two hours and 35 minutes, it’s a thing of beauty. You take the exact same game and stretch it out over an extra 30 minutes, it’s an unwatchable snooze-fest.
Baseball has taken some steps to speed play, but it hasn’t helped. The limit on mound visits is completely ineffectual. It’s been in place for two seasons, I can remember exactly one time when I’ve seen a team use them all (or even get down to one left).
Get the ball, throw the ball. That solves most of the problem.
Yes, Homeruns and strikeouts are up and lead to a lot of unexciting “action.” Yes, in a game last week I watched as the visiting pitcher, down 6-0 in the 8th inning, with two outs and the pitcher at-bat, threw over to 1st base five or six times in a row. Yes, the replay is a botched nightmare, and the umpires can’t call consistent balls and strikes.
None of that will matter if they can just get the game time back down to 2:45 or less.
As it is, I have a hard time getting my pre-teen kids to go to games with me. Baseball is losing a generation of fans. They don’t have much time to save the game.
Edit: As usual, the commentary clarified my thoughts a bit. So allow me to adapt one of my later comments on this thread here in the main post: I don’t want a pitch clock. I want the batter to stay in the box, and I want the pitcher to get the ball and throw the ball. But for whatever reason, they seem disinclined in recent years to do so.
What I object to is taking three hours to play a game that should only take two and a half hours.
And I’m not talking “action.” I get that baseball is about the pauses, and the four foul balls on a 3-2 count. Just do it a little quicker.