MLB games averaging 2 hours, 37 minutes after a week of spring training, would be fastest pace since 1979 #MLB #games #averaging #hours #minutes #week #spring #training #fastest #pace #englishheadline


The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs by a score of 6-3 on Thursday at spring training in Arizona.

It was not a particularly interesting game. Cubs pitcher Drew Smyly got hit a lot in his first Cactus League start, allowing five hits and two runs in two innings of work. Abraham Toro and Nelson Velazquez both entered the game in the later innings and homered. The team combined to trot out 13 pitchers to get their work in.

The interesting number came at the bottom of the box score, and it would have been truly shocking this time last year. The time of game: two hours and 11 minutes.

Games like that have become the norm at spring training this year thanks to the introduction of MLB’s pitch clock, which require pitchers to start their deliveries within 15 seconds of receiving the ball with bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on base, while batters must be ready with eight seconds left on the clock. The data through one week of play indicates MLB is heading toward the fastest pace it has seen in decades.

Two hours and 37 minutes.

That’s how long the average nine-inning game between MLB teams in spring training has lasted so far this year with the pitch clock, through 94 games. That number includes split-squad games, but does not include games involving non-MLB teams or games called early for rain.

That pace of play is 29 minutes shorter than last year’s average game time three hours and six minutes, which itself was a five-minute improvement on 2021’s record of three hours and 11 minutes according to data from Baseball Reference. Nearly a half hour of dead time that would usually be spent watching men pace around and stare at each other, per game.

For perspective, a game that lasted six minutes longer than that Brewers-Cubs game was considered so quick it made national headlines last postseason. Meanwhile, a game with the same score in the final day of the season last year between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox lasted three hours and 21 minutes.

If MLB games averaged two hours and 37 minutes, it would be the quickest pace of play since 1979. Of course, that number will probably be different in the regular season for a few reasons.

How will the pitch clock affect MLB’s regular season?

The large caveat to the average game length so far is that spring training games obviously have some major differences from regular-season games, but those differences could actually still be lengthening games, meaning the upcoming regular-season games could be even shorter.

This week’s worth of games has seen an average of 11.35 runs scored per game, 2.78 more runs than last year’s regular-season average. That’s likely because of a lower quality of pitching, both because pitchers are still getting up to speed and teams are going much deeper into their organizational depth charts for arms.

Because more runs correlates to longer games, the regular season could go by at an even more brisk pace once the scoreboard calms down.

MESA, ARIZONA - MARCH 01: Trey Mancini #36 of the Chicago Cubs warms up in front of the pitch clock during the fourth inning of a spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Sloan Park on March 01, 2023 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

One week into spring training, MLB’s pitch clock is working. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

On the other hand, spring training games usually aren’t intense enough to see mid-inning pitching changes and they don’t go to extra innings, hence they might naturally be a bit shorter than normal. But even that shortening might be a little overblown, as the average length of nine-inning games last year was still three hours and three minutes and we haven’t seen that stat go below two hours and 37 minutes since 1984.

Games likely just take less time now, as hoped and expected. The result is a product that harkens back to when baseball was on top, even if there are some hiccups here and there.

What about MLB’s other rules changes?

MLB’s pitch clock is the most visible rule change this year, but it isn’t the only rule change being instituted.

The league has also banned shifts, limited pick-off attempts and increased the size of its bases. The intention behind the moves is to adjust the game’s style for more balls in play and stolen bases — a direct push back against the widely lamented Three True Outcome-heavy state of the modern game — and it looks like those changes might be working too.

Entering Thursday, the team stats on MLB’s site worked out to a .319 batting average on balls in the play this spring, the statistic that measures how often balls in play are converted to outs. The league-wide mark for the regular season has steadily fallen over the last five years as shifts became more and more prevalent, going from .300 in 2017 to .290 last season.

It should be noted spring training BABIP is usually inflated due to the lower quality of defense, but .319 is still quite a bit higher than the range of .310 to .314 over the last four full spring trainings.

JJ Cooper of Baseball America also noted Thursday that stolen-base rates, both attempts and success, have skyrocketed, going from 0.77 attempts per game and a 72.9% success rate in spring training last year to 1.16 and 80.6% this year. The Cincinnati Reds stole 14 bases in 14 attempts in their first five games.

Basically, you should get ready for more base hits, more stolen bases and less waiting time this season, just like MLB wanted. Whether or not that’s a good thing given the changes is up to you.

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