How Long Is a Baseball Game – From Average to Longest Lasting Games
Baseball is the de facto national sport of the USA and is popular in a number of countries worldwide, primarily in Canada, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.
But, unlike other major sports competitions, an average MLB game length isn’t determined by a fixed amount of time, so it’s hard to tell just how long it can last.
If you’ve ever wondered how long do baseball games last and what it is that can impact a game’s length, we cover everything you need to know on this detailed page.
Read on to learn what game length you can expect from average to longest-lasting baseball games.
How Long Does a Baseball Game Last?
Whether you’re a passionate baseball fan or are just getting into the sport, you probably know it’s extremely difficult to tell exactly how much a baseball game will last.
Although baseball games don’t have predetermined time frames in which they should end, most MLB games last between three hours and three hours and ten minutes.
To fully answer the question “what’s the average length of a baseball game?,” it’s important to know approximately how long an inning lasts, so you can calculate how much the entire game will take.
Generally speaking, one inning lasts about twenty minutes. This is approximately the time it takes both teams to make three outs, six outs in total.
For one team to win, it needs to get as many points in each inning before the inning ends due to the six outs.
If the game is tied after nine innings, it goes into extra innings. And, as the MLB doesn’t allow the game to end in a tie, the teams will play until a winner emerges.
Moreover, as there’s no limit on the number of extra innings, the game can technically last forever if neither team breaks through.
With this in mind, the more extra innings added to the game, the longer it will last.
Of course, there’s a number of other factors that can influence the overall length of a particular game, even if there aren’t any extra innings played. This brings us to the next key section.
In-Game Aspects That Can Affect the Game’s Length
To fully understand how long a basketball game is on average, we need to look at various aspects that impact the overall length.
And, when it comes to these, the list of factors is fairly extensive. Here are just some of the most significant reasons that can play into determining a baseball game’s overall length:
- Extra Innings – The most apparent reason that can impact a baseball game’s length is whether or not the game goes into extra innings. Of course, if it does, it will take more time to complete than a regular game.
- Arguing and Replays – If any fights break out between teams or there are more serious arguments between players and the referees, the game will inevitably drag on. Add to this replay reviews and other similar delays, and there’s no telling how long the particular baseball game will last.
- Big Matchups and Playoff Games – Generally speaking, big games, especially during the postseason, will last longer than regular-season games. The biggest reasons for this are additional commercial times and the number of tactical changes the teams make as the game goes on.
- Pitching Changes – Onto more specific factors, the number of pitching changes can affect the game’s length. More precisely, each baseball team has between three and five pitching changes during one game. The total combined number of the two teams’ pitching changes can affect the game’s length by several minutes at least.
- Player Routines – Lastly, one of the most common factors impacting a baseball game’s length is player batting rituals. For example, baseball player Steve Traschel single-handedly affected the length of his team’s games by around ten to twenty minutes just for having prolonged routines between his pitches.
Non-Baseball Factors That Can Affect The Length
Besides common factors like those discussed above, an average baseball game can last longer because of natural elements.
Unlike sports like basketball and hockey, baseball is played outside. This means that the weather can significantly delay or prolong a baseball game.
With that in mind, here are some of the most common non-baseball related factors that can affect the game’s length:
- Rain Delay – While a rain delay doesn’t affect the game itself, it factors into the total playtime, as the game stops when the rain starts. This means that the game can be delayed or even postponed if there’s heavy rainfall. So, in this sense, a rain delay can impact the overall length more than any other factor.
- High Wind Speed – The wind can impact the ball’s trajectory and turn a potential home run into a missed opportunity. On the other hand, if the wind is blowing out, more home runs will happen than they would under normal conditions. So, if the game turns into a pitcher’s duel, it can be significantly longer than usual.
- Extremely Hot/Cold Temperatures – Temperature can also have a significant impact on the game’s length. Cold and warm games generally last longer than those played in an average temperature range, primarily because the players are being changed out more.
Can Baseball Be Sped Up?
Baseball is often made fun of by other sports fans for being excruciatingly and needlessly long at some points.
And, when you consider all of the above reasons for which an average baseball game can be delayed, poking fun at the sport in this context is often completely justified.
That said, the MLB representatives aren’t sitting with their arms crossed, as the sport has seen some changes, with more inevitably to come. The most interesting changes that have been implemented to speed up the game include:
- Pitch Clock – A few years ago, the MLB introduced a twenty-second pitch clock in every league stadium. The goal of this pitch clock is to speed up pitchers by limiting the time they can take. This has already proved to be an effective method for speeding up baseball games.
- Automatic Intentional Walks – Since 2017, pitchers in the MLB can give the intentional walk signal to save time and speed up the game. This rule helps save a lot of time, as intentionally walking the hitter saves four pitches.
- New Rules for Extra Innings – From 2021 onwards, all extra-inning games have an automatic runner on second base at the start of the inning. Although many MLB professionals and fans might not like this rule, it undoubtedly helps reduce the game’s overall length.
- Necessary Doubleheaders – The same year as the previous rule was introduced, the league also made the two seven-inning games rule if a doubleheader was required. This rule speeds up the game by reducing the number of innings and pitchers overall.
Key Things to Remember About the Length of Baseball Games
Although baseball games have been getting progressively longer through the decades, the MLB is certainly trying to mitigate this and keep them under a certain length.
Still, as people don’t have as much time to sit down and watch super-long games in this modern world, we’ll undoubtedly see even more changes added to the ones discussed above.
If you’re preparing to watch a baseball game, the best rule of thumb is to set aside a little over three hours.
Not every game lasts precisely this time, but not many games last excessively longer than this either. If you have any other questions related to baseball length rules and stats, check out the FAQ section below.
Baseball Length Rules FAQ
The longest professional baseball game ever played was between the Pawtucket Red Socks and the Rochester Red Wings.
It was played in 1981 and lasted for a jaw-dropping 33 innings and a total of 8 hours and 25 minutes of playing time.
This game was so long that the final inning had to be played over two months after the start of the first inning.
The longest World Series game was in 2018 between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The game needed eighteen innings and seven hours and twenty minutes to complete.
It’s by far the longest World Series game ever, as the second-longest after it took around five hours and forty minutes.
In contrast to the longest baseball game ever, the shortest game in MLB history lasted only 51 minutes. This was a nine-inning game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies played over a hundred years ago, in 1919.
Technically, yes, a baseball game can last forever. If there’s a tie, the game continues through extra innings until a winner is determined.
That said, although there are multiple examples of games that have lasted dozens of innings, one side will eventually make either a winning play or a crucial mistake.
Yes, the number of strikeouts directly impacts the game’s length. When there’s a higher number of strikeouts, more hitters are going deep into their count instead of making contact with the ball right away.
So, naturally, the more strikeouts there are, the longer the game will drag on.
College baseball games last to the ninth inning, the same as professional MLB games. High school games most often have seven innings.
This means that high school games are generally around an hour and a half to two hours, much shorter than college and professional baseball games.