The sample size is small, but not so small that MLB officials aren’t eager to trumpet the results: the average length of a baseball game in 2015 is down almost eight minutes from last year.
The 79 nine-inning games so far this year have averaged 2:54:39, down from 3:02:25 in 2014. That’s a huge difference! And before you discount the numbers after one week, ESPN notes that the final 2014 game length came in just four seconds off its first-week average.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about shaving eight minutes off games and getting back under the three-hour mark was how easy and logical it was. Of the six rules tested out in winter ball, MLB instituted three : a rule mandating that batters remain in the batter’s box during their at-bats; allowing managers to call for instant-replay challenges from the dugout; and requiring play to resume a set time after the end of the previous half-inning.
It’s this last change that seems to have had the biggest impact. Ballpark countdown timers, set to 2:25 for locally televised game, signal the time left before the return from commercial breaks, and batters and pitchers are encouraged to be ready to go when the countdown hits 20 seconds. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed a lot more broadcasts returning with an immediate first pitch, rather than with the batter still strolling to the plate.
“We don’t need to be at 3:20 [between innings],” commissioner Rob Manfred said. “Why do we need to be at 3:20? ... Those are the kind of things that you can tighten up, shorten up, without affecting the flow of the game.”
So, good news all around. Eight minutes might not sound like much, but multiply that by the 2,430 regular-season games and that’s 19,440 minutes—or 324 hours, or 13.5 full days that baseball is giving back to fans.