First, I would like to thank Marty, William, and Jose for commenting on my last Blog in which I criticized the new baseball commissioner’s idea of making the defensive shift illegal. All three agreed with me that this will not solve the problem and can actually hurt the game of baseball. In reading the comments of William and Jose they both felt the real problem with baseball is not the reduced scoring but is the time where nothing is happening. William pointed me to an article published in the Wall Street Journal which used analytics to document how in a typical three-hour game there is a very small amount of action. An observational research study consisting of a small sample of three games was done by the WSJ. The sample involved both leagues and six different teams. The results of the study showed a baseball fan will see approximately 18 minutes of action in a three-hour game. This means only 10% of the time spent watching a game resulted in action. So what happens in the 162 minutes of no action? Here is the WSJ’s breakdown by category of the 162 minutes of non-action. The numbers below represent the approximate average times for the three games.The categories are sorted from most to least time spent.
- Time-between-pitches (75 minutes). The time between pitches begins when the pitch to the batter who saw the last pitch concludes—either when the catcher catches the ball or it is fouled off—and ends when the pitcher begins his next pitch. This includes the antics of the batter after he steps out of the batter’s box and the antics of the pitcher on the mound.
- Time-between-innings (43 minutes). This is TV commercial time.
- Time-between-batters (34 minutes). This is announcing the batter, the walk-up song, and adjusting the batting gloves. The time between batters concludes when the pitcher begins throwing to the new batter.
- Time (10 minutes): This includes manager arguments, instant replays, injury timeouts, trips made to the mound and not removing the pitcher, and pitching changes within an inning.
According to Stats LLC, the 2014 year’s average time of three hours and three minutes for a major league game was the highest since they started tracking the numbers in 1987. In 1987, the average time was two hours, 52 minutes. John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, attributes the increase in time to hitters’ increased patience at the plate, which leads to their taking and fouling off more pitches. That, in turn, leads to pitchers’ throwing more pitches, hence longer games. He also pointed to the fact that the amount of time spent on TV commercials between innings also increased.
So what can be done to shorten a game without destroying the integrity or finances of the game of baseball? The most egregious category, category one above, is the one I would attack. Here are my suggestions.
- Enforce the already existing but never enforced 20 second time for a pitcher to make the next pitch after receiving the ball from the catcher. A 20 second clock on a scoreboard behind the catcher should be visible to the pitcher. If he exceeds the 20 second time the homeplate umpire is buzzed and a ball is awarded to the batter. If the batter walks it is scored the same as fielder’s interference.
- Except for certain events a batter is allowed to step out of the box only two times during his plate appearance. Each time after the second time the pitcher is awarded a strike. If a strikeout occurs it is scored the same as an out but the pitcher is not credited with a strikeout.
I look forward to hearing your suggestions on how to speed up a game. Please email these to me so I can publish them