Final Pace of Play

2015_MLB_Pace_of_Play_1Data via Baseball-Reference.com

As shown above, the average length of MLB games rose in August and September, approaching 2014 levels. But much of the trend was driven by an increase in pitches per game: The average game used 288 pitches in the season’s final two months, up from 281 previously. (In contrast, pitches per game declined from 285 to 280 over the same period in 2014.)

On a per-pitch basis, 2015 games remained notably faster on a year-over-year basis:

2015_MLB_Pace_of_Play_2Follow: @DiamondGraphs

Slowing Pace in MLB?

2015_MLB_Pace_of_PlayData via Baseball-Reference.com

Thanks to MLB’s celebrated pace-of-play initiatives, early-season games in 2015 were 8-10 minutes faster, on average, than in 2014. But the average game length, which was 2:53 for the first half of the season, has stretched to 2:56 in July and 2:59 so far in August — closing nearly the entire gap on last season, which showed no such pattern (resting around 3:02 for the full year).

August is still only 2/3ds complete, so time will tell if the current trend is a blip, or if the dog days are eating away at MLB’s pace-of-play gains.

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Postseason pace of play

pace_of_play_mlb_playoffs_2014

Data via Baseball-Reference.com

The 2014 playoffs have been filled with entertaining games — and those games have taken a lot of time to play out. Saturday’s 18-inning Giants-Nationals tilt was the longest postseason game ever, and three others have gone to extra innings, but as the chart above shows, even the nine-inning games have taken longer than usual. (Note that data is only through Sunday; Monday’s 2-hour, 47-minute Nationals-Giants game will bring down the average.)

All eight nine-inning playoff games to date have taken longer than the 2014 regular-season average, given the number of runs scored (naturally, higher-scoring games tend to take longer). From a simple linear regression — with a major small-sample-size caveat — postseason games have lasted an estimated 50 minutes 30 minutes longer than regular-season games of similar scoring.

Possibly the worst offender was Sunday’s Orioles-Tigers Game 3 — a 2-1 O’s victory, with just nine combined hits and one mid-inning pitching change, that somehow lasted 3 hours, 41 minutes. None of the 154 regular-season games with three combined runs lasted as long. Friday’s 3-2 Nationals victory in Game 1 was also the longest five-run game of 2014, lasting three hours, 55 minutes.

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NLDS: Longest playoff games

longest_mlb_playoff_games_nationals_giants

Data via the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index

The Giants and Nationals set a playoff record with an 18-inning thriller on Saturday. Their 18-innings matched the previous postseason high, set by the Braves and Astros nine years ago (though theirs was cut two outs short by Chris Burke’s walk-off homer), but by time of game, San Francisco and Washington bested the old record by 33 minutes.

Bonus: Tim Hudson, the Giants’ starting pitcher on Saturday, also started for the visiting Braves in 2005:

longest_postseason_games_tim_hudson

Follow: @DiamondGraphs