Monday, February 14, 2011

Baseball Game Length

This portly fellow has one of the slowest deliveries in the majors
The foremost reason people same to dislike baseball as a spectator sport (at least when not at the park which is a hovel for various other activities) is that the games take so long without a whole lot happening. You can go several innings with only a walk or a bunt single to show for it, in fact most teams don't score in the majority of their innings. The recent homerun surge has done something to combat the inactivity of it all but the average length of games continues to increase year after year.

Baseball does not have a time limit, and it seems to be the pride of elderly sportscasters to mention this at will. While the traditional nature of not limiting the time a pitcher takes to throw each ball to the plate it would easily cut game times down by 30-45 minutes if they did.  This post at Beyond the Box Score goes into some detail on the slowest and fastest pitchers in the game. Most of the slower pitchers are relievers and a lot of them are Red Sox or Yankees. Due to their cherished rivalry Joba Chamberlain and Jonathan Papelbon decided to take half a minute between each and every pitch, making innings take half an hour late in the game. This is why the always ESPN televised Sox/Yanks games take so long to finish and ratings vary wildly throughout.

In addition to pitchers taking a while between pitches batters themselves like to step out of the box, adjust their groin, spit on their gloves and wiggle their bat for around 20 seconds a few times per at bat. This could be severely limited. Coaching visits to the mound do take a while and slow down games but I don't think a lot can be done to prevent them, Pitchers and Catchers meeting at the mound should probably be eliminated however. While injuries on every other play are a major reason NFL games take so long they don't really happen all that frequently. Pitching changes could be limited to 4 or 5 to also speed up the pace of games. I have been blessed to watch Mark Buehrle for several years as he routinely throws complete games that last about 2 hours, but those numerous pink hat wearing fans must not be too enamored with watching Papelbon grab his crotch 10 times when he closes.

There seems to be some debate as to what length is the "best" for a baseball game, an extremely quick hour and 45 minute game is non existent at this point and might be too short, but 3 and a half hours is way too long. In my opinion two and a half to three hours is the sweet spot, though many sabremetricians might argue otherwise. I don't much care for all the bullpen switches and commercial breaks late in the game but the early duel between the starting pitchers is quite interesting and entertaining, as is the very last inning in close games. If your team is known for coming back you'll undoubtedly have to watch longer games but those comebacks are the most exhiliarting part of the game. Walk off Home Runs are always amazing even to the non-fan, though simply watching your team rally can be fulfilling enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment