All The Time in The World: Series Games Averaging Over 3.5 Hours!

Should you happen to find yourself off in dreamland during one of this year’s World Series games and wake up to find the game hasn’t even reached the seventh-inning stretch, don’t get too worried – you’re not living an episode of the Twilight Zone. You’re just living in the world of baseball as it is today. With pitching coaches and managers making trips to and from the mound sooner and more frequently, this has proven to be another postseason of record-setting game times.

Houston ace Justin Verlander proved to be the lone champion of the older traditions of the diamond, being the only one to pitch an entire game during the playoffs, where nine-inning game times stretched out to sometimes exhilarating but all-too-often snooze-inducing 3 hours, 32 minutes. This is an increase of 7 minutes over last year’s average times and 18 minutes higher than 2015 levels.

Verlander knows he was working a lost magic, describing his feat as the domain of “outliers” like himself who still have what it takes to “go deep in games.” If betting odds for MLB Playoffs covered game times, the smart money would be on the high side every time. According to reports from Elias, the sports bureau, nine-inning games in the postseason haven’t averaged times under three hours since the year 1990.

What’s causing the drag-out in playing time? Ballooning mound visits and ever-expanding television commercial time allocations are the main culprits. The likes of Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw won’t be able to recreate the exploits of greats such as Sandy Koufax when he pitched a four-hit shutout playing Minnesota in 2 hours, 34 minutes in Game 5 of the 1965 World Series only to come back in two days to clinch a three-hit game 7-winning shutout in 2 hours 27 minutes. He’s not too torn up about it, though, saying times have changed and he’s happy to be a part of this new era in baseball. Good for him.

Teams had expressed their concerns over the lengthening game times even during the regular season, prompting MLB management to propose 20-second pitch timers and single mound trip restrictions per pitcher in each inning. Talks on these changes are still going on, and any agreed-upon changes might be introduced gradually over coming seasons.

Manager to the Astros, A.J. Hinch, himself a former catcher in the big league, expects to see incredibly complex signage we’ve seen in the game should the changes be introduced, stressing the importance of not giving hitters any competitive advantage when it comes to pitching signaling.

Advanced analytics are giving us more insight into the sport nowadays. Elias and Baseball Info Solutions report that no postseason starting pitcher managed an out in the seventh inning last year and that average starter pitches are down to 81 from 96 in 2010, while average outs by starters have fallen to 14 from 18 within the same period.

Houston, like most other teams, doesn’t like its starting pitcher facing batters a third time. Verlander is sympathetic to the younger generations of players, saying that conditions nowadays don’t allow for them to really achieve the kind of feats older players attained, regardless of their abilities.

Outfielder for Los Angeles, Curtis Granderson, echoed Dodgers catcher Kyle Farmer’s sentiments on the strategic importance of mound trips, says he would prefer the television presentation style be reworked instead of tinkering with the game to accommodate commercial demands. We can only hope good reasoning will prevail.

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