This year’s MLB playoff games are reaching unprecedented lengths. When the action is this good, no one should be looking at the clock.
Pace of play is a persistent debate in Major League Baseball. Shortening the length of games has become Commissioner Rob Manfred’s pet project during his tenure as the league’s boss. So it isn’t hard to imagine him being a bit frustrated by what he’s seen so far this MLB postseason.
No, the games themselves have been fantastic. It’s just that it’s taking longer than ever to get through nine innings (or more). According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, nine-inning playoff games are averaging three hours and 35 minutes this year. That’s an increase of 10 minutes from a year ago and 21 minutes from 2015.
As Crasnick points out, there are factors at play unique to October baseball. The postseason means extended commercial breaks, of course. Playoff teams are also relying more and more heavily on their bullpens, a trend that has continued this fall. All those pitching changes add up over the course of a game.
The supersized postseason games aren’t exactly a shocking development, however. Regular season games were longer in 2017, too. Per Crasnick, the league set a record this year for longest average game time at three hours, five minutes. It was an even three hours last season, and they actually came under the three-hour mark in 2015 at two hours, 56 minutes.
But at the end of the day (or, more accurately, in the early morning hours if you’ve been watching the NLCS on the East Coast), should fans really care? You’d be hard-pressed to find many baseball aficionados who would trade some of the great moments we’ve been treated to so far for an abbreviated game length.
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When Cleveland overcame a five-run deficit to take Game 2 of the ALDS from the Yankees, the 13-inning affair clocked in at a gargantuan five hours and eight minutes.
Justin Turner delivered a dramatic walk-off homer in an NLCS Game 2 that lasted three hours and 20 minutes.
As Jose Altuve raced around the bases to score the game-winning run from first on a Carlos Correa double in the second game of the ALCS, it was a downright brisk three hours after first pitch. And the Yanks evened up that series in Game 4 by scoring six unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth frames, in a contest that took three hours and 37 minutes to complete.
If the results are memorable spectacles like these, I’m not going to complain much about sitting on my couch for an extra half-hour or more. If the TV ratings for this postseason are any indication, the majority of fans feel the same way (with some thanks, perhaps, to the big-market clubs involved).
Pitch clocks and other changes are likely coming in the future in an effort to speed things up. That may be a fair idea in the long run. For now, let’s soak up the playoff marathons. Because in a few short weeks, there will be no more meaningful baseball until next spring.