Thirty years ago the average baseball game was just over two-and-a-half hours long. According to STATS LLC, the lowest average game time last year could be found at Safeco Field in Seattle – where the Mariners averaged 2:45 per game. Most teams eclipsed the 2:50 mark, and four teams averaged over three hours a game.
There’s a variety of reasons for this increase in game length. Some of these reasons there’s nothing we can do much about. Increased interest in sabermetrics has led to more defensive shifts, specialized bullpen use and pitching around certain hitters. The importance of the walk (being just as good as a hit) has allowed batters to take more pitches in each at bat – leading to an increase in pitches thrown. All of these add a bit of time to each game and none of them are going away any time soon.
Major League Baseball can’t limit the number of pitching changes, the position of the fielders, or the number of throws to first base, but there are possible changes that if implemented would decrease game times and make the game more engaging.
9 Enforce the Pitching Clock
8 Stepping out of the Batter’s Box
Once a batter steps into the batter box he’s a live batter until he calls time. Yet all of us have seen the endless parade of stepping into the box, taking a pitch, stepping out, adjusting several articles of clothing, getting a sign, digging back into the same hole you were just standing in, then reading for another pitch – and God forbid the pitcher take too long to throw it, because then the batter calls time and the process repeats.
Once a batter steps into the box and is ready he shouldn’t be allowed to step out without calling time. If pitchers need to be on a clock, it’s not unreasonable for batters to assume some responsibility as well. Time is then granted (or not) by the umpire. If the batter wants to step back out that’s fine, but the pitcher should be allowed to fire away.
7 8. Reduce the Number of Trips to the Mound by the Catcher
6 7. Enforce the Strike Zone – Particularly the High Strike
5 Hold Everyone Accountable
4 Hold the Umpire Accountable
3 Reduce or Eliminate some of those TV Timeouts
2 Limit Reliever Warm-Up Pitches
1 Eliminate the Stupidity of the Intentional Walk
Again, a minor quibble, but one of the biggest complaints from casual fans is that the "pitcher throws to first all the time!" It slows down the game, especially when a certain former player named Pettite is on the mound. But guess what? A lot of throws are actually balks. If umpires called the balk correctly it might lessen the number of throws to first base, which will speed up the game. In addition, it might lead to more stolen bases, which also adds back in more excitement.
Speeding up the pace of play is better for everyone. Fans and players stay engaged. More batted balls in play lead to more spectacular things, like hits and errors. More importantly, baseball is losing legions of fans each year. Pick up the pace of the game and just maybe some of those fans who turn off the game at 10 PM when it’s in the sixth inning will hang around to see how it ends.
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