The Boston Red Sox fell 8-3 to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday night. The loss was of mild concern to the Red Sox and of major concern to Major League Baseball.
That’s because the contest dragged on for 4 hours and 6 minutes. That’s right: A nine-inning, regular-season game with just 11 total runs scored lasted more than four hours.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. Entering Monday, MLB games in 2017 were taking an average of 3:08 to complete, which would be the slowest pace in league history if the season ended today.
There are plenty of theories for why the game is slower, and all have some validity. Commercial breaks are longer. Starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings, resulting in more pitching changes and mound visits. Managers can challenge close plays, which brings the game to a screeching halt as umpires review calls. Home run, strikeout and walk rates are at all-time highs, which means fewer balls in play and longer counts.
But there’s one other obvious reason why games are taking so long. Per Fangraphs, pitchers have taken an average of 23.8 seconds between pitches this season. That’s the slowest pace since Fangraphs started tracking the stat in 1984, and nearly a full second longer per pitch than last season (22.7 seconds).
Those seconds add up, too: If a total of 280 pitches are thrown in a game with a pace of 22.7 seconds between pitches, that produces roughly 1 hour and 46 minutes of dead time. Increase the pace to 23.8 seconds, and it tacks on five extra minutes per game (1 hour, 51 minutes of dead time).
Of course, there’s a simple solution: A pitch clock. If MLB instituted a 20-second pitch clock — which already is being tested in the minor leagues — it could make huge strides in pace of play. Even if every pitcher used the maximum of 20 seconds, a 280-pitch game would move 18 minutes faster, on average, than at the game’s current pace.
Pitchers and baseball purists have balked at the idea of a pitch clock, claiming it throws hurlers out of their rhythm and goes against the game’s pure nature of being played outside the contraints of a clock. But anyone who watched Drew Pomeranz and Daniel Norris slog through four hours of baseball at Fenway Park on Sunday night knows baseball games need to get faster. And that starts with the guys with the ball in their hands.
h/t Bleacher Report
Thumbnail photo via Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports Images
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