This is a wondrous time of the year for local sports, with the Twins’ push for a playoff spot at the head of that list. It might not be the exact time when you want to hear about MLB’s ongoing length of game problem, but I started doing some research today on the Twins and now here we are.
The numbers? They’re ugly if you like a more crisply played baseball game (as many of us do).
*Last year, the average nine-inning MLB game took exactly three hours. That’s not good, as it represented a trend in the wrong direction. MLB games had actually gotten six minutes faster between the all-time nine-inning high of 3:02 set in 2014 to the swifter 2:56 of 2015.
*This year, the average game has added five minutes and checks in at 3:05 for a standard nine-inning affair. Barring some sort of barrage of 2 hour games, this year will set a new record for longest average game length. Guess those automatic intentional walks aren’t exactly helping much.
*Twins games, though, are EVEN LONGER than the record-setting MLB pace. The average 9 inning Twins game this season has lasted a shade over 3 hours, 9 minutes. Their last 10 games have all been at least three hours. For the season, they’ve only played 40 games in less than three hours — and 97 have lasted three hours or more (including 93 that finished in 9 innings). Lest you think there are some extra-long outliers that are driving up the average game time, the median — the number right in the middle of the entire 133-game nine-inning set of games for the Twins this year — is also 3 hours, 9 minutes.
*The Twins are 2-17 in their 19 longest games this season. They’re 12-7 in their 19 fastest games this season. Overall, they’re 22-18 in games lasting fewer than three hours, and 49-48 in games 3 hours or longer. I’m not going to read anything into those numbers — a quick explanation is they’ve lost a lot of high-scoring blowout games, and blowouts take longer — but I was curious about it so I looked it up.
*Having attended a nine-inning game Thursday with two small children that lasted 3 hours, 17 minutes, I will say this: games feel a lot longer when you’re watching on TV instead of at the ballpark. I have no idea why that is, but it’s one reason I rarely watch a Twins night game on TV while it’s happening — instead, when I do watch, recording the game and starting it around 9:30 while fast-forwarding through commercials and dead spots in the action.
*And yes, I know duration of games and pace of play are two separate things, but they are also closely related. There’s no reason a baseball game has to last that long — particularly when between 1952 and 1985 the average game time was never 10 minutes higher or lower than 2 hours, 30 minutes, with some ebb and flow along the way.