If you are attending the ballpark in person, or just planning on watching a baseball game on tv, you may be wondering about the length of the game. How long is a baseball game?
In 2019, the average Major League Baseball game lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes (source). This is up from 2018, which had an average game length of 3 hours and 4 minutes. The length of an individual MLB game can vary greatly from this average, so prepare your day accordingly.
Major League Baseball games consist of nine total innings, as do all other levels of professional and college baseball (although college has exceptions). High school baseball lasts for seven innings, and most youth leagues last six.
In this article we will discuss the length of Major League Baseball games and discuss the actions MLB has taken to try and speed up pace of play in the sport. We will also discuss the length of minor league baseball, college baseball, high school baseball, and youth baseball games.
If you are planning on attending a baseball game, here are some of our most popular resources for baseball fans that I would recommend reading before going to a game:
MLB Game Length
How Long Is an MLB Game?
A Major League Baseball game lasts slightly over three hours on average. In 2019, the average Major League Baseball game lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes.
The length of games has become a point of emphasis for Major League Baseball as fan engagement has suffered over recent years. Many fans site pace of play and length of game as a reason why they are losing interest in the sport.
The last time that the average length of an MLB game was under three hours was in 2015 when the average game length was 2 hours and 56 minutes. In 2008, the average game length was 2 hours and 50 minutes. As you can see, the length of Major League Baseball games is trending in the wrong direction, and because the increased length has led to criticism from fans, this issue has the full attention of the powers that be in Major League Baseball.
How Long is a Baseball Game on TV?
If you are going to a watch party for a baseball game (perhaps a playoff game), remember that there may be a pre and post-game show that goes with the actual baseball game. If you are interested in that, you will need to plan accordingly.
Pre-game shows can start 30 minutes prior to the game. Post game shows can be 30 minutes as well, but often just last 5-10 minutes after a game and include an on-field interview with a player or coach and then a small wrap-up segment by the announcers.
If you are going to a watch party for a playoff game, prepare yourself for the fact that playoff baseball can last much longer than standard baseball. In 2017, the average playoff baseball game lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes and in 2016, the average playoff baseball game lasted 3 hours and 25 minutes. That’s approximately 15-20 minutes longer, on average, than regular season baseball games.
Playoff baseball games last longer mainly due to how many pitching changes are made throughout a game. Because postseason games are so important, baseball managers are not afraid to use every pitcher in their bullpen to try and matchup as good as possible with the opposing batters. Trips to the mound to make pitching substitutions add time to the game.
A simple tip is to DVR your baseball games and fast forward through the commercials. Baseball games on TV have nearly an hour of commercial breaks. That’s an easy way to save an hour of your time that you can put elsewhere.
Steps to Improve Pace of Play
If you want to take a deep dive into why baseball is perceived as boring by many fans, and what MLB is doing to correct it, you can read my article on that subject by clicking on the article here: Why is Baseball So Boring to Many Fans?
Major League Baseball has taken several steps to try and improve pace of play. Here is a list of some of the steps they have taken:
- Limit Mound Visits – A team is now limited to six mound visits per nine innings.
- Shorten Time Between Innings – Some experts think it still needs to be shorter.
- Pitch Clock – Only used in minor leagues so far.
- Intentional Walks – Intentional walks awarded without pitches.
- Batter’s Box Policy – Batters asked to not leave batter’s box during an at-bat.
Again, if you want to read more about those issues, see the article linked above. Some of those steps have had a small impact, but overall, baseball is still seeing the length of games slightly increase. This may point to the fact that the culture surrounding the sport, from a player’s perspective, is accustomed to a slow pace of play, and even maybe somewhat reliant on it.
This highlights the challenge that Major League Baseball faces in trying to shorten games. Changing culture and player habits and routines is difficult and will always receive some level of blow back from the players themselves.
Major League Baseball is tasked with the issue of player performance vs fan engagement. For example, many MLB hitter’s objected to the policy of asking batters to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box during an at-bat. Some players feel like it is a disadvantage for the hitters. When the rule was first implemented, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz took exception saying:
“I saw one pitch, I come out, I’m thinking, “What is this guy going to try to do to me next?” I’m not walking around just because there are cameras all over the place and I want my buddies back home to see me and this and that. It doesn’t go that way.”David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Changing the way the sport operates will always have some sort of impact on player routine. This is what complicates this issue for Major League Baseball. The answer isn’t as simple as changing rules and shortening games. Major League Baseball feels pressure to reduce the length of games and improve pace of play without affecting the quality of the product. But even if initial player blow-back exists, the game itself will adjust and evolve over time and become accustomed to new routines and new rules.
The Effect of Starting Pitching
The starting pitcher can have a significant impact on the length of a Major League Baseball game. A pitcher who works fast and pounds the strike zone forces quick action and drives the game forward at a much faster pace than a slow-working starter.
Not only do many fans appreciate this type of baseball, so do many players. It is much easier for fielders to stay focused when their is consistent action.
Maximum Innings in Baseball – Does It Exist?
Is there a limit to the number of innings a Major League Baseball game can last? No, by rule there is no limit to the length of MLB games. Extra innings will continue until a team wins.
But in reality, teams only have so many pitchers available. Eventually, teams run out of pitchers to use, and position players must pitch. When this happens, runs are usually scored, and the game comes to an end.
The longest MLB game in modern history was in 1984 when the Chicago White Sox defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 in 25 innings.
MLB Game Length vs NFL Game Length
In 2018, the average MLB game lasted 3 hours and 9 minutes. In recent years, the longest average length of an NFL game was in the 2015 season when the average game also lasted 3 hours and 9 minutes. The length of NFL games vs MLB games is practically the same.
But as I detailed in my article here about baseball’s fight to stay relevant, there are a lot of other factors holding MLB back. It’s not only the length of games, it’s the pace of games. The long breaks in between consequential action bores many fans.
Of course baseball has enthusiasts (like myself) who love the game for what it is, but even the truest of baseball fans must admit that baseball is suffering to engage the younger generation in the ways that the NFL does.
In 2018, only 9% of Americans said that baseball was their favorite sport to watch. According to Gallup, that is the lowest percentage for the sport since Gallup began asking the question in 1937. For comparison, 37% of Americans consider football their favorite sport to watch.
MLB must ask itself how can it make its product harder to turn off. There are several questions it must consider. Is the schedule too long? 162 regular season games means that very few of those games will severely consequential. Perhaps average fans are having a difficult time trying to figure out why they care about a meaningless mid-season game.
The NFL has such a short regular season that every regular season game has a monumental impact on the playoff chances of the team. Fans have a harder time turning something like that off. They MUST know who wins, because it matters.
How Long Is an Inning in Baseball?
A full inning in Major League Baseball lasts about 20 minutes on average. Late innings typically take a little bit longer than the early innings because a manager will use his bullpen a lot more later in a game.
Many of the same things that slow down baseball games can slow down individual innings. An inning may have multiple pitching changes, a replay review, or an on-field argument between the manager and umpires. Dominant pitchers make for quick innings.
How Long Is A Minor League Baseball Game?
The average minor league baseball game will last approximately three hours. Minor league baseball plays a full 9-inning baseball game just like Major League Baseball. The pace and skill of the game is very similar to MLB and so the overall length of the game is very similar.
Minor league baseball does not have the same instant replay system available to teams that Major League Baseball does because minor league baseball games do not have the same number of cameras in the stadium. This likely helps reduce the overall length of the game, although it is important to remember that instant replay can also help speed up a game if it prevents a lengthy on-the-field argument between a manager and umpire.
How Long Is A College Baseball Game?
In 2018 the average NCAA college baseball game lasted 2 hours and 59 minutes. Most college baseball games are 9 innings long, but some games are 7 innings. The amount of innings will obviously affect the overall length of the game, so be sure to check how many innings are in the game you will attend.
Just like Major League Baseball sees a spike in game length for postseason games, so does college baseball. According to this article written by the New York Times, 2018 Regional and Super Regional games averaged 3 hours and 18 minutes. 2018 College World Series games lasted 3 hours and 30 minutes in the lead-up to the championship series. The longest game in the College World Series history was played June 16, 2018 and lasted for 4 hours and 24 minutes.
If you are attending or watching a postseason college baseball game, plan for it to last 3 ½ hours or longer.
How Long Is A High School Baseball Game?
The average high school baseball game will last between 1 ½ hours and 2 hours. Most high school baseball divisions play seven-inning games. The time it takes to play a high school baseball game can have some extreme exceptions due to the level of talent of some teams. Scores can get out of hand at time and make for very long innings which can drag out the time it takes to complete the game.
If you are headed to a high school baseball game, it would be best to prepare yourself just in case the game takes longer than expected.
Most high school baseball games are played in doubleheader format, which means the teams will play two full games. So, if you are trying to plan out how long a high school baseball game will take, you will first want to find out if there is only one game or two. If it is a double header, and you plan to stay for both games, you can expect a 15-20 minute break in between games.
If you are attending a junior varsity high school baseball game you can expect the same average time frame of 2 hours or slightly under. Most junior varsity leagues also play seven total innings.
How Long Is A Youth Baseball Game?
A youth baseball game will last on average between 1 hour and 1.5 hours depending on the level of baseball. There are many different forms of youth baseball depending on age, league, and state.
Most little league games are six innings long, with some of the advanced leagues playing seven innings and some of the younger leagues playing five innings.
The youngest types of youth baseball include tee-ball and coach-pitch (also known as ‘Minor Leagues’). Some tee-ball leagues have a time limit of one hour for the entire game. Many tee ball leagues do not keep score, allow every player to bat every inning, and use parents as coaches and umpires.
Tee-ball and coach-pitch youth baseball leagues are development leagues for kids to learn the sport, get healthy exercise, and have fun. The elite levels of little league are very competitive and may see some games last near two hours in length.