This is when we’re supposed to hunt for potential trends, right? We can look at the home runs. We can look at the strikeouts. We can look at the walks. We can look at the strike zone. We’re always trying to see where baseball might be going. What’s another potential trend? Baseball has slowed down! Again.
In 2014, the average game lasted about 188 minutes. In 2015, the average game lasted about 181 minutes. The improvement was modest, but still cause for celebration, as the league wanted to increase the pace of play. Unfortunately for them, things slid back some of the way last year, when the average game length bumped up to 185 minutes. And in the early going this year? We’re at an average of 191 minutes. All the gains of 2015 have been erased, and then some, and this isn’t because there has been, say, an unusual number of extra-inning contests. Last year’s average game had 76 plate appearances. This year, the average is…76 plate appearances.
So, what’s going on? Oh, right. Players love doing nothing.
I don’t know if it’s the hitters or the pitchers or what, but the time between pitches has shot up by nearly a second and a half. Pace was already trending up heading into 2015, when baseball passed a few new pace-related rules. Remember the one about staying in the batter’s box? Right, all that. There were short-term gains, but the players have slipped into old habits due to a lack of enforcement. I guess it’s not even old habits. By this measure, the old habits have gotten worse and more exaggerated. An extra second here and there is nothing, but it all adds up, given that hundreds of pitches are thrown for every nine innings.
This isn’t a judgment post. Some people mind that baseball has gotten slower. Some people don’t mind at all. My opinion is my opinion alone, and I would never assume everyone else feels the same way I do. How you feel is how you feel, but the facts right now point to baseball once again slowing down. And if that trend keeps up, I’d think that pitch clocks are an inevitability. Rob Manfred, see, has his opinions, too, but his opinions turn into actions. I just get to sit here and write about them.
We hoped you liked reading Baseball Is Getting Slower Again by Jeff Sullivan!
Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.
FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.
Nominating Suter of the Brewers vs. Jay of the Cubs for the fastest pace I’ve ever seen in an at-bat. It was amazing.