MLB Failing to Eliminate Pace-of-Play Problems By Speeding Up Baseball

The average time of a nine-inning MLB game is 3 hours and 5 minutes

MLB's Efforts to Speed Up Baseball Are Failing
Brewers manager Craig Counsell visits the mound for a pitching change. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty)
By Evan Bleier / September 3, 2019 9:47 am

Despite efforts to speed up baseball, the average time of a nine-inning game in Major League Baseball is three hours and five minutes.

That equals the mark which was set in 2017, after which MLB and the players’ association responded by limiting the number of mound visits per game. Other time-saving measures including shortened breaks between innings and eliminating pitches being thrown during intentional walks have been imposed, but MLB games still drag on a snail’s pace.

One of the biggest reasons games are taking so long is that batters are more focused on hitting home runs and pitchers are more focused on getting strikeouts. That combination has led to batters seeing an average of 3.92 pitchers per plate appearance, the highest mark in the 21 seasons the stat has been tracked.

“It’s a direct correlation between pitching now and pitching as (recently) as five years ago,” says veteran Miami Marlins infielder Neil Walker told USA Today. “Even five years ago, pitching staffs had contact guys, sinker-slider guys. They wanted the ball put into play. Now, velocities are way up, the pitching philosophies are much different – it’s pitch to the top of the zone with fastballs, with as much velocity as you hope a guy has, and put you away with breaking balls. You see a lot more at-bats deeper into counts, a lot more at-bats that end with strikeouts or walks, a lot more foul balls. That goes hand-in-hand with what we’re seeing in regard to time and pace of play.”

In order to cut down on wasting time with pitching changes, pitchers will be forced to face at least three batters starting next year.

That’s something at least, but until there’s a philosophy change expect baseball’s pace-of-play problem to persist.

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