Look at this chart of the average length of MLB games.
MLB game length
|1981||2:33 (two hours, 33 minutes)|
|Source: The Athletic/MLB|
Playoff games are often longer because of more ads between innings and players taking even more time between pitches.
All this fiddling and waiting means that kids often miss part of the most exciting and important baseball games of the season. If a game starts at 8 p.m. and lasts 3½ hours, there’s little chance even the most devoted young fan will be allowed to watch an entire game on a school night. That’s no way to get kids to love baseball.
Help may be on the way. Baseball’s minor leagues have experimented with pitch clocks for the past few seasons. In certain lower leagues, pitchers have 20 or sometimes only 15 seconds to start their delivery or the umpire can call an automatic ball.
The batter is required to be in the batter’s box and paying attention with eight seconds on the pitch clock or the umpire can call an automatic strike.
This past season the Low-A West League enforced a 15-second pitch clock. The result? The average Low-A West League game went from 3:02 (3 hours and 2 minutes) to 2:41. That means the average game was 21 minutes shorter. Some games took just a little more than two hours.
In addition, the Low-A West League games had more runs and more action with fewer walks and strikeouts.
Don’t expect pitch clocks at MLB games soon. The players and their union would have to agree to the changes. Some pitchers and batters may not want to hurry up because they might think every pitch and swing of the bat is important. After all, players make millions of dollars playing the game.
But they make that money because fans watch the games. The fans, and especially kids, may not want to watch the games if they continue to slow down.
Maybe it’s time to speed the games up. Maybe it’s time for a pitch clock in baseball.