Nobody From Nowhere (@i8dc)

Occasional Common Sense

MLB Pace of Play Data Through May 2015

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I’ve been pulling game data from Baseball Reference, enabling me to compare game length data year-to-year–in this case as of May 31. My method of pulling this data is fairly slow and labor intensive, however, so I’ve only got it back to 2010 so far.

I’ve written previously that today’s longer game lengths are not indicative of a problem, but rather that the game is being played better than in the past. I said that MLB’s pace-of-play rules wouldn’t make a significant difference in overall game length.

Here we are, two months into the season. Time to look at some data.

DataThruMay

Data derived from Baseball Reference’s game data and Fangraphs’s per game pitch and batters faced counts.

A few notes about the table:

  • Batters per game is lower so far in 2015 than in any similar period from 2010-2014.
  • Pitches per batter is also lower.
  • 2014 and 2013 were historically high in terms of seconds per pitch.
  • Minutes per batter in 2015 is higher than the 2010-2012 period, despite fewer pitches per batter.

Reporters keep repeating MLB’s assertion that the pace-of-play measures are working since games are taking significantly less time than last year. While the data bear this out, with average game length 11.75 minutes (6.2%) less so far than in the comparable 2014 period, this is, as I wrote before, only a small part of the story.

So far in 2015, the number of pitches per game is historically low: lower in fact than in any year full year since 1997.  In fact, more than 41% of the decrease in average game length from 2014-2015 is directly attributable to the decrease in the number of pitches per game. But that leaves almost seven minutes of shorter average game length to explain, the credit for which goes to faster pace of play. But the contributors to pace of play are many and assigning causation will be hard.

But stepping back from that challenge, just take game time and divide by the number of pitches per game to get seconds per pitch, which seems to me a good metric to judge pace of play. Note that in the table above seconds per pitch is a bit higher this year than in any of the years prior to 2013. Looking at the full year data for the 1998-2011 period (not included here), seconds per pitch was only as high as 37 only once, in 2001.

Which means that the 2015 pace-of-play gains touted by MLB and its agents leave the game slower than it was between 1998 and 2012.

One question remains: why was the pace of play so slow in 2013 and 2014, and why does it remain slow this year, even with the new pace of play rules?

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Written by David Clayton

June 3, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Posted in Baseball

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