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How Long Do Baseball Games Last?

When attending, watching, or even playing a baseball game, it is important to know its length. Is there a timeframe to look at it, and what factors into that timeframe?

A standard, regulation baseball game is 9 innings and the average time of a nine inning game is 3 hours and 9 minutes. However, things like pace of play, gameplay, weather and extra innings can all impact how long a baseball game will last.

Now that it is determined how long a baseball game is in terms of innings, it is time to find out what exactly impacts the time of a game. Let us explore how pace of play, gameplay, scheduled number of innings, weather, and extra innings all impact the length of a game. 

What Impacts The Length Of A Baseball Game?

With a concrete answer of how long a standard baseball game is in terms of regulation innings, it is necessary to further explore the factors that can lengthen the time of a game.  

There are a number of things that affect the length of a baseball game. Pace of play is the most critical factor. Factors like the specific gameplay, scheduled number of innings, weather, and extra innings also play a role in the length. However, these have less of an impact when compared to pace of play. 

With all the factors laid out, let us explore how pace of play impacts the length of time teams spend playing a game. 

Pace Of Play

Pace of play is an issue that Major League Baseball has attempted to fix for the last few years. An example of this is how quickly the pitcher resets and executes his next pitch following the previous one. Another example is how long the hitter takes to readjust his batting gloves or practice his swing in between pitches. 

Pace of play directly impacts game time. The average time of a nine inning MLB game in 2021 is 3 hours and 9 minutes. That’s a 2 minute increase from the 2020 season and an 18 minute increase from the 2011 season. MLB views the pace of play problem as one of the biggest threats to the game. Longer game times lead to fewer action within the game, and eventually, less viewers.

MLB is considering implementing a pitch clock to speed up the pitcher in between pitches. They are also considering limiting how often a hitter can leave the batter’s box. So far, they have begun limiting the number of mound visits during the game to reduce time.

The pitch clock plan has received a lot of criticism from players, but is currently in the testing phase in the minor leagues. In addition, rules requiring hitters to remain in the batter’s box are on the books, but are rarely enforced by umpires. 

Pace of play has the most impact on the length of a baseball game. However, the next factor discussed, gameplay, goes hand-in-hand with pace of play in deciding the length of a game. 

Gameplay

When thinking about what occurs during a baseball game, a fan thinks about hits, home runs and strikeouts, but how does that factor into how long a baseball game lasts?

Depending on the amount of action during a game, the length of the game can either get shortened or lengthened as a result. If each team bats around–all 9 hitters coming to the plate–multiple times during the game, the game will last longer. 

High scoring games can often last longer than pitching dominated games. This is because there are more pitches thrown, more baserunners, and most likely, more pitchers used. While high offensive production games are entertaining to watch, they can make the game drag on in length. 

Gameplay factors into how long a baseball game lasts, but so does the next item on the list, scheduled Innings. 

Scheduled Innings

As mentioned before, a regulation baseball game is 9 Innings, but that is not always the case. There are special circumstances when a baseball game is shortened to 7 scheduled innings. 

Beginning in the pandemic shortened 2020 season, Major League Baseball tweaked the number of innings a game lasted. However, only under specific circumstances. If the two teams in question were scheduled to play a double header, each of the two games became 7 Innings long. 

This decision was made in part to reduce exposure to the virus, but also to help shorten the games. This was important because by having a fewer amount of innings for double headers, teams theoretically used less players and pitchers. Ideally, this would help reduce the amount of fatigue related injuries, a fear among team executives and players as they navigated the shortened season. 

No matter the number of innings scheduled, weather can also have a significant impact on the length of a game. 

Weather

Weather is an outlier event that has much more of an impact on baseball than it does any other sport. Weather does not impact a baseball game frequently. However, it occurs often enough that it creates headaches for coaches, players, and schedule makers. 

Unlike basketball or hockey, a majority of baseball teams have outdoor stadiums, making them dependent on the weather cooperating. And unlike football, baseball is not played when it is raining or snowing. 

Due to these circumstances, baseball games can be delayed by weather, with play resuming hours later. In some unusual occurrences, games are started on one day and completed on a shared off day, or as a double header day, weeks, or months later. Under some circumstances, games are even called early–but only if at least 5 full Innings are completed. 

Weather is an unexpected issue in baseball much like the next factor, extra Innings.

Extra Innings

The best thing about baseball is that there are no ties. The worst thing about that is it may lead to seemingly unending baseball games. 

9 Innings is the regulated minimum for the amount of innings played. If that feels long, wait until there is a 16 inning game when a team runs out of pitchers and a position player ends up on the mound. While 9 innings is the standard, and for most games, that is all it takes, there is not a maximum number of innings a game can last. This means the game will continue until one team claims victory. 

To combat the issue of how long a game might go due to extra innings, MLB introduced a rule during the shortened 2020 season to help avoid those 16 inning games.

The rule states that beginning in the 10th inning, each team would start the inning with a runner on second base. This is the player who made the last out in the previous inning. Since second base is considered “scoring position” for a baserunner, this rule gave teams a better chance of scoring, thus ending the game sooner.  

With so many things impacting the length of a baseball game, one must wonder, does the length of a baseball game make it worth watching?

Is The Length of a Baseball Game Worth It?

With all of these factors, the length of a baseball game is wild and unpredictable, much like the action on the field. Is the length of a baseball game worth it to fans?

Generally, it is well worth it for fans to watch a baseball game on television or attend the game in person. For die-hard fans of the sport, it is well-worth waiting out a rain delay or staying up until 2am to watch the 15th inning of a game. For others, that scenario might sound like a nightmare and they would rather check out the score the next morning. 

The length of a baseball game, while unpredictable, is rarely impacted by all of these factors in the same game. Most fans can expect a baseball game to last the previously listed average of 3 hours and 9 minutes.

A baseball game is considered entertainment. Much like a TV show or movie, some investment is required to fully enjoy the experience. No matter the length, a baseball game is always worth the investment. 

There is no doubt that multiple factors play a role in how long a baseball game lasts. Whether it be pace of play or the weather, the length of a baseball game is unpredictable. Most fans view it as part of baseball’s charm.