Rule changes and experiments designed to shorten games and improve the pace of play in Minor League Baseball and the independent Can-Am League seem to be working, as we have results from the first half of the season.
There was much debate over the sanctity of the game when it was announced before the season started that rule changes designed to shorten extra-innings games would be used this season in Minor League Baseball. We saw a whole host of rule changes initiated in MiLB this season — you can see the full list here — and today Minor League Baseball issued an accounting of how the rule changes affected extra-inning games. The verdict? Extra-inning games seem to be ending earlier than in the past. Here’s the data from Minor League Baseball:
Games going more than three extra innings
In 2018 (through July 1), only eight games have gone more than three extra innings (more than 12 innings in a game scheduled for nine innings and more than 10 innings in a game scheduled for seven innings).
In 2017, 162 games went longer than three extra innings.
In 2016, 183 games went longer than three extra innings.
Games ending in one extra frame
In 2018, of the 475 extra innings games through July 1, 239 games (71 percent) ended after one extra inning of play.
In 2017, of the 1,192 extra innings games, 588 games (49 percent) ended after one extra inning of play.
In 2016, of the 1,195 extra innings games, 546 games (46 percent) ended after one extra inning of play.
Games ending in one or two extra frames
In 2018, of the 475 extra innings games through July 1, 446 games (94 percent) ended after one or two extra innings of play.
In 2017, of the 1,192 extra innings games, 878 games (74 percent) ended after one extra inning of play.
In 2016, of the 1,195 extra innings games, 850 games (71 percent) ended after one extra inning of play.
The longest games
In 2018, the longest game of the year (in terms of innings) went six extra frames.
In 2017, the longest game of the year (in terms of innings) went 12 extra frames.
In 2016, the longest game of the year (in terms of innings) went 14 extra frames.
Average number of extra innings played in extra innings games
In 2018 (through July 1), 475 extra innings games created 653 extra innings (1.37 extra innings per game)
In 2017, 1,192 extra innings games created 2,457 extra innings (2.06 extra innings per game)
In 2016, 1,195 extra innings games created 2,592 extra innings (2.17 extra innings per game)
Time of extra innings games
In 2018, extra innings games are ending 28 minutes later than an average nine inning game.
In 2017, extra innings games ended 43 minutes later than an average nine inning game.
In 2016, extra innings games ended 45 minutes later than an average nine inning game.
Note: the average inning in 2017 took 18.7 minutes (2:49 time of game average)
Won-Loss Record of home team (through July 6)
2018: 258-259 (.499)
2017: 551-641 (.462)
2016: 575-620 (.481)
So, basically, the data indicates that the majority of extra-inning games now end in the 10th inning, as opposed to more than half going 11-plus innings in previous years.
In the independent Can-Am League, the average nine-inning game this season has taken 2 hours, 47 minutes, down 21 minutes (8.9 percent) from last season’s average of 3 hours, 8 minutes.
Over the last few seasons, the league has taken several initiatives to quicken the pace of play and reduce game times, including the international tiebreaker rule, in which the 11th inning begins with a runner on second base for each team. All affiliated minor leagues instituted a similar rule starting this season.
Much of 2018’s reduction in nine-inning game times can be attributed to additional pace of play rules instituted by the league this season, which include:
- Mound visits limited to 30 seconds.
- One catcher’s visit to the mound per inning, per pitcher.
- A pitcher must deliver a pitch within 20 seconds of receiving the ball. Failure to comply results in an automatic ball.
- Between innings, the team taking the field has 90 seconds to warm up once the last fielder crosses the foul line closest to their team’s dugout.
- New pitchers allowed two minutes to warm up.
- A batter must enter the batter’s box within 15 seconds of the prior batter’s completed at-bat. If he does not, a strike is added to the count.
- A batter may not step out of the batter’s box once the at-bat has begun (Official Baseball Rule 5.04 (4)(A)). The batter must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times. Failure to comply results in an automatic strike.
- If a manager wants to intentionally walk a batter, he signals to the plate umpire.
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