MLB Pace of Play: Data and Sources
Last night I wrote about baseball’s non-existent pace of play “problem.” My basic argument is that the increase in average duration of baseball games over the last 50 years is mostly due to fundamental changes in how the game is played, and not so much because the game’s natural gaps have gotten longer because of extended commercial breaks or more intense nether-region scratching or something.
I noted that while games last almost 6% longer than they did in the late-1980s/early-1990s, they include almost 8% more pitches, and that the pace of play, when measured in seconds per pitch, is faster today than it was then. I noted that sec/pitch, while much better than hours/game, is still fairly rudimentary. I have started looking into parsing the time data more, but I probably won’t have the time needed to really get into it for a while. So here’s my survey of the important data that’s out there.
- Game durations. I pulled these from Baseball Prospectus, which has it here back to 1950. I don’t know if this is authoritative and haven’t vetted it against other sources.
- Pitch counts. STATS, Inc. began capturing pitch data as part of keeping score of all games in 1988. Before that, I don’t know of any good pitch data. I did read that the Dodgers collected pitch data in the 1950s on its pitchers only, but I don’t exactly have any pull with MLB teams.
- Timestamps. With the advent of SportVision’s PITCHf/x system in 2007, every pitch in every MLB stadium has been recorded with an automated timestamp. While not flawless, the systems’ data set is generally very good.
So we can assess time per game since 1950, pitches per game and seconds per pitch since 1988, and more granular things since 2007.
What are these more granular things? The PITCHf/x timestamps should facilitate analysis of the different kinds of gaps between pitches, which include the following:
- Side changes between innings
- New batter
- New pitcher
- Pick-off attempt
- Coach visit to mound
- Catcher/player visit
- Appeal/manager argument/replay review
- Weather delay
This list may not be all-inclusive (feel free to let me know in the comments). Everything else can easily fall into the regular gap between pitches.
Okay, so that’s that. I know, weak post.