Baseball has been “America’s pastime” for over a hundred years. It has a rich history filled with many twists and turns. For many Americans, there’s no better way to spend a summer day than at the ballpark watching a game of baseball. Baseball’s appeal isn’t just limited to America, however, as more countries around the world have embraced the sport, including New Zealand. But how long does a baseball game last?
Check the clock
Most sports have a set time that a game will last. Football has two 45-minute halves. Basketball has four 12-minute quarters. Ice hockey has three 20-minute periods. But baseball is different. There’s no big clock to look for that’s counting down the minutes until the game is over. Instead of a clock, baseball has innings.
Nine innings…or more
A baseball game’s lasts nine innings. What does that mean? An inning has two halves: the top half and the bottom half. In the top half of an inning, the away team hits whilst the home team defends. In the bottom half of an inning, the home team hits whilst the away team defends. In each half inning, the hitting team is trying to score runs, whilst the defending team is trying to make outs. Each half inning lasts as long as it takes for the defending team to make three outs. Some half innings are over in just a few minutes, whilst others can take upwards of half an hour if the defence can’t find a way to get the hitters out.
So if there are two half innings of three outs in each inning, and nine innings in a game, that means that a baseball game lasts for 27 outs, or 24 if the home team is leading after eight and a half innings. However, if the score is tied after nine innings, the game continues with extra innings until one team has more runs by the end of an inning. This means that a baseball game could hypothetically go on forever. But all games end eventually, whether they take 27, 33, or 45 innings. But how does that translate to actual time?
A methodical pace
One of the biggest criticisms of baseball is its length. It’s a methodical sport, filled with intricacies and mind games. Over the last ten seasons, the average length of time of a nine-inning baseball game was a little over three hours.
Compared to the other sports listed above, baseball takes the longest time by some margin, with an average football game taking less than two hours and an average basketball or ice hockey game taking less than two and a half. Combined with its comparatively slow pace, baseball’s long length can be daunting and demanding for new and old fans alike. To address this, there have been several pace of play rule changes made in Major League Baseball over the last few years.
Over the last decade or so, MLB has implemented new rules to speed up the pace of its games. Examples include limiting the number of mound visits (when players or coaches visit the pitcher’s mound to discuss strategy) a team is allowed to five, shortening the time of TV advertising breaks, a “ghost runner” on second base to start extra innings to make it easier to score, and a pitch clock to limit the amount of time between pitches thrown.
These new rules have been met with mixed reactions from fans. Some fans view the rule changes as a positive step forward, speeding up the game and making it more accessible for newcomers. Some more traditional fans view the new changes as infringements on the game they love, changing things that didn’t need changing in the first place, just to pander to non-fans.
Whether or not fans agree with the new rules, there have already been visible results. After the introduction of the pitch clock, which is new for the 2023 season, game times are already noticeably quicker. So far in 2023, the average game length is around two hours and 40 minutes, a dramatic difference from what, over the years, had become the norm in baseball.
With these new rules speeding up the game, baseball’s reputation as a slow, methodical game could be set to change.