How Long Is A Typical Baseball Game?

MLB Stadium

How Long are Baseball Games?

Professional team sports are primarily limited in play by the time on a clock. Soccer games are 90 minutes, whereas NHL and NFL games are 60 minutes, while NBA games are 48 minutes of action. A beautiful thing about baseball is that it isn’t governed by a clock, which makes the game’s pace much more enjoyable and relaxing.

Just how long are Major League Baseball games? Let’s take a closer look.

How Many Innings is a Standard Baseball Game? 

Since there is no time limit to a Major League Baseball game, the length of time varies from game to game depending on how many innings are played and the number of runs scored during the game. A standard MLB game consists of nine innings of play.

The exception is when doubleheaders are scheduled, which now run seven innings each. However, the number of innings isn’t etched in stone since MLB games cannot end in a tie. The game is played until a winner is determined. Theoretically, a game could go on forever.

How Long Is a Baseball Game?

Over the last several decades, baseball games are taking longer to complete. According to Baseball Reference, an MLB game in 1991 averaged 2 hours and 54 minutes to complete. Ten years later, the average length of a game was four minutes long.

Two decades later, in 2021, the average game took well over three hours, at 3 hours and 8 minutes. If you look back at box scores from games when runs were hard to come by, it wasn’t unusual to finish a game in just over 2 hours. There are many reasons why the pace of play has slowed over the years.

What Adds to the Time of Baseball Games?

1. In past eras, pitchers completed games regularly, and it was expected for the starting pitcher to go as long as possible. These days, if a starting pitcher goes six or seven innings, that’s perfectly acceptable, meaning more and more relievers are being used. This allows the pitcher to run in from the bullpen and warm up before play resumes. 

2. Although trips to the mound by the catcher and pitching coach are limited, this adds additional time. The same thing happens when the catcher has to switch signs. Hitters step out of the batter’s box between pitches to adjust batting gloves or take practice swings.

3. Arguing with the umpire fights among teams, and instant replay reviews, which are commonplace in today’s game, extend the duration of the game. 

4. The duration of an inning can lengthen a game, particularly if a pitcher has to throw an extraordinary number of pitchers or a team scores numerous runs.

5. While many people may not think of this factor, there is the additional time between innings for tv commercials, which increases during the playoffs and the World Series. 

6. Some rivalry matchups could take longer to complete because divisional rivalry games are significant for placement in the standings. Therefore, you may see more pitching changes, pinch hitters, and mound conferences, all adding to the time of the game.

What are the Different Ways Baseball is Speeding up the Game?

Although many people don’t feel the need to ruin the natural flow of the game, there are ways that Major League Baseball is trying to speed up the pace of the game. The first is introducing pitch clocks; if a pitcher doesn’t throw the pitch during the allotted time, an automatic ball is added to the count. 

Even though intentional walks are not commonplace, starting in 2017, pitchers no longer had to throw four pitches out of the strike zone to intentionally walk a batter. The new rule for intentional walks was for pitchers to signal that they want to do so, and the batter takes first base.

(Courtesy of Vox YouTube channel). Since 2015, MLB has implanted ways to speed up the game.

New Rules Implemented In 2021

Extra-inning games now start with a runner on second base. This rule is controversial since the teams haven’t earned that runner on second base, but both teams have the same opportunity with the runner in scoring position. The idea is that teams will score easier with this advantage and, in theory, should speed up the games. Whether or not this is effective remains to be seen.

In addition, whenever a doubleheader is scheduled, the games have been reduced to seven innings each. Decreasing the number of pitchers needed in these games with two fewer innings should decrease game time.

What is the Longest Game Ever Played in Baseball History?

The Milwaukee Brewers faced off against the Chicago White Sox on May 8, 1984, in front of just under 15000 fans. The game lasted 25 innings and took eight hours and six minutes to finish. The game was suspended in the 18th inning and was completed the next day.

Cecil Cooper, Rudy Law, and Carlton Fisk each had 11 at-bats in the game, which was won on a Harold Baines home run. An astonishing total of 14 pitchers were used in the game, with Tom Seaver, normally a starter, winning the game in relief.

What is the Longest Minor League Baseball Game Ever?

The longest Minor League game started on April 18, 1981, between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Paw Sox. At 4:09 the following morning, the game was suspended and resumed on April 23. After 33 innings, 219 at-bats, 60 strikeouts, 882 pitches, and 39 hits, the Paw Sox won 3-2.

The game took an astounding eight hours and 25 minutes to complete. The most notable player in that game was future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.

What was the Longest Game Played in the World Series? 

The longest World Series game was in 2018 between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. The game lasted 18 innings and took nearly seven and a half hours to complete. That broke the previous longest World Series game of five hours and forty-one minutes between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox during the 2005 World Series.

Is Baseball Boring Because It’s Too Long?

It’s no secret that baseball games can be long. A typical game can last between two to three hours, sometimes even longer if it goes into extra innings. Some people find this a problem, arguing that the game’s length makes it dull.

However, many people also enjoy the leisurely pace of baseball and find it a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Ultimately, whether or not baseball is boring comes down to personal preference. Some people love the excitement of a close game that goes down to the wire, while others find the slow pace soothing. 

There’s no right or wrong answer, so it’s all about what you’re looking for in a sports experience. If you’re someone who enjoys cheering on your team and spending time with friends, then baseball is probably the sport for you. 

Conclusion

Baseball Is a fascinating game about pace, timing, and rhythm, and unlike most other team sports, there is no clock determining the end of the game. The games have taken increasingly longer to play over the past several decades.

A typical nine-inning game at the MLB level takes approximately three hours to finish. Major League Baseball is trying to find and implement ways to reduce the time of the game without significantly impacting its natural flow.