## April 18, 2019

### Are Games Getting Longer Because Teams Are Throwing More Pitches?

In a recent thread, someone commented:
The reason games are longer is there are many more pitches per game than there used to be. There are many more pitches because the whole philosophy of hitting has changed, seeking one of the three true outcomes. ... Stop with the pitching rules, and the number of seconds per pitch, and the time between innings, and the length of commercials. That's all BS. The problem is, there are many, many more pitches being thrown in games. And so games are longer.
After doing some research, I replied, but the post being commented on was several days old already, so perhaps few people saw it. I thought the question and the data was interesting enough to be its own post. My answer:
The facts do not bear this out.

This BRef 2010 blog post compared data from 1988 (the earliest year for which complete pitch data exists) and 2009. I looked at data for 2018 myself.
```1988: Teams averaged 136.2 pitches per game
2009: Teams averaged 147.4 pitches per game
2018: Teams averaged 148.4 pitches per game```
While there has been an increase of 12 additional pitches thrown per team per game over the last 31 years, there has been an increase of only 1 additional pitch per team per game over the last 10 years.
```1988: Pitches per PA: 3.59
2009: Pitches per PA: 3.83
2018: Pitches per PA: 3.89```
Back in 2004, The Hardball Times used the "Basic Pitch Count Estimator" equation (3.3*PA + 1.5*SO + 2.2*BB, where PA = 3*IP + H + BB) to estimate the number of pitches per team per game. (I added in the BRef data above.)
```1950: 146
1955: 144
1960: 144
1965: 142
1970: 145
1975: 144
1980: 143
1985: 144
1988: 136 (BRef)
1990: 144
1995: 148
2000: 149
2003: 146
2009: 147 (BRef)
2014: 145 (BRef)
2018: 148 (BRef)```
Finally, Grant Brisbee wrote an award-winning article in 2017 comparing two similar games played 30 years apart:

April 13, 1984. Mets at Cubs. Home team won 11-2. There was a total of 27 baseruners, 74 batters, and 1 mid-inning pitching change. Total pitches thrown: 270. Time of Game: 2:31.

April 17, 2014: Brewers at Pirates. Home team won 11-2. There was a total of 27 baserunners, 75 batters, and 1 mid-inning pitching change. Total pitches thrown: 268. Time of Game: 3:06.

The 2014 game had 2 fewer pitches thrown, but took 35 more minutes to play.

Jere said...

Batters used to take a pitch, and then immediately prepare for the next pitch to come in, like you would at a pitching machine. This turned into stepping out of the box and doing a routine between every single pitch. Isn't that a big source of wasted time?

allan said...

That has to be a part of it, along with pitchers walking around the mound a couple of times after every pitch. And catchers' visits.

MLB's 20-second pitch clock (to come with the next CBA) would begin when the pitcher receives the ball back from the catcher. It would not be used for the first pitch of an at-bat. Also, the clock will not be used after a foul ball, a mound visit or when the umpire calls "time". The timer will reset to 20 seconds after a pickoff play, wild pitch or passed ball, or if a pitcher steps off the rubber with runners on base.

("The timer will reset to 20 seconds ... if a pitcher steps off the rubber with runners on base." I can see that happening a lot.)

Rule 5.07(c) stipulates the pitcher must deliver a pitch within 12 seconds of receiving the ball when there are no runners on base. However, that rule also states those 12 seconds begin only when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher.