During the 2022 season, Minor League Baseball experimented with a pitch clock to reduce the time it takes to complete a baseball game, and the results were telling. Minor League Baseball games with a pitch clock took around 2.5 hours to complete, while games without them were closer to three hours. Three hours was the norm for how long games would take for years, but with the pitch clock and other rule changes, minor league games now take less time to complete than before.
So, what exactly did the pitch clock accomplish in Minor League Baseball Games? What other rules help decrease the time it takes to complete a Minor League Baseball game? How long did games take to complete in the past? What impacts a baseball game’s length in general? What was the longest and fastest MiLB game to take place?
Here is the complete breakdown of a minor league baseball game’s length and how long it takes to complete.
What Did the Pitch Clock Rule Do in Minor League Baseball?
The MilB pitch clock rule in 2022 gave pitchers 14 seconds to throw the ball to a batter at the plate and 18 seconds if there was a runner on base in Double-A and below. Triple-A baseball gave an additional second for the pitcher to throw the game. If a pitcher does not throw a pitch to the hitter within that time frame, the pitcher receives an automatic ball to the count.
For hitter at-bat, they must also be in the batter’s box and ready for the pitch by the 8-second mark. If a batter is not in the ready position in the box by 8 seconds, they get an automatic strike added to its count.
As a note, Major League Baseball will be adopting a pitch clock rule during their 2023 season due to the successful implementation of it in the minors in 2022.
Other Rules that Help Decrease the Regular Season Baseball Playing Time
Outside of the pitch clock in 2022, there have been other changes in professional baseball games in the minors to speed up the pace of play. Here are some changes that help speed up the action during matches.
- Pitchers can only throw two pick attempts. If they throw a third and don’t pick off the baserunner, that baserunner moves up one base automatically. This pickoff rule reduces the number of pickoff attempts in games
- Removing the defensive shift helps speed up the game’s action. The new law states that the infielders must not switch sides and be on the dirt. No more can an infielder play in shallow right field as an outfielder for a defensive shift. Removing the shift reduces the unnecessary movement of infielders around the field during the regular season and playoff games.
How Long Did MilB Games Take to Complete in the Past?
According to Bleed Cubbie Blue, minor league games in 2022 with the pitch clock took around 2:35 minutes to complete. Meanwhile, games that did not run this experiment took about 3 hours to complete. In 2021, the average minor league game took about three hours.
To compare those numbers to Major League Baseball, games in 2021 took over three hours to complete, like the minors. Statista has been tracking the average time it takes to finish games in the MLB for years, and it has been around that three-hour mark consistently since 2015.
What Impacts the Pace of Play for Minor League Baseball Games?
While the pitch clock has reduced the time it takes to complete a nine-inning game of baseball, there still are factors that prolong the game. Since baseball has no time limit, certain factors can increase or decrease the game’s length.
Extra innings will always add time to a baseball game. Baseball has been adding new rules, like the ghost runner at second base during extra innings to conclude a winner. Still, since there are no ties in baseball (unless under particular circumstances), there needs to be a winner, and thus the teams will play until someone wins.
Another factor that can increase or decrease the time it takes to finish a game is the game itself. If one team struggles to get outs and gives up many hits, that will prolong the game with multiple pitching changes. Any injuries to a pitcher (or a player on the field) will also result in more time to complete the game. Also, any arguments with the umpire, reviews of plays, or even rain delays will cause a game to take longer to complete.
What is the Longest MiLB Game in History?
The longest game in Minor League Baseball took place in 1981 between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Swings. The game took 8 hours and 25 minutes to complete and went on for 33 innings. Eventually, the home team (Red Sox) won the game in the bottom of the 33rd inning.
What was the Fastest MiLB Game in History?
According to MLB.com, the fastest MiLB baseball game took 31 minutes to complete in 1916. The game was against the Asheville Tourists and the Winston-Salem Twins. Before that, there was a game in 1910 that took 32 minutes to complete, and that was between the Atlanta Crackers and the Mobile Sea Gulls.
Do Minor League Games Use 9 Innings of Play?
Minor League Baseball Games are nine innings of play, just like Major League Baseball. However, the main difference in the number of innings between the minors and the big leagues is with doubleheaders. Doubleheaders in minor league baseball games are two games of seven innings. There was a short period when MLB doubleheaders would only be seven innings, but that rule is no longer true in 2023.
College baseball, college softball, and High School baseball games are seven innings of play, which means their games take less time to complete than minor league matchups. Little League and other Youth baseball games tend to be six innings or less, making them the fastest to complete.
What Else Can Minor League Baseball Games Do to Speed up Games?
One radical way to speed up the conclusion of a baseball game is to eradicate extra innings. If Minor League Baseball games adopted what soccer does, where they give three points for a win, one point for a tie, and zero points for a loss, they could eliminate extra innings. Since wins don’t matter in Minor League Baseball, extra innings become unnecessary as it drags out an otherwise meaningless game and thus delay any events or shows that teams will put on for the fans after the last pitch.
For example, many minor league ballparks have shows and events after the game to draw fans into the venue. Some events include fireworks, while others allow fans onto the field. If Minor League Baseball wants to speed up games, one idea is to eliminate extra innings and make the experience of going to a MiLB game faster for families and fans.
Conclusion: How Long is a Minor League Baseball Game?
A Minor League Baseball game with the new pitch clock rules takes about 2.5 hours to complete. The pitch clock rule that began in 2022 helped shave off thirty minutes from games that did not have that clock. The pitch clock forces pitchers to throw the ball quicker to the batter, which helps reduce unnecessary time in-between pitches. Some instances of wasting time included batters stepping out of the box, pitchers stepping off the mound, and pitchers holding onto the ball for excessive time to play mind games with the batter.