Red Sox-Yankees slow games

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have garnered a lot of attention for their slow games, particularly their three-hour, 46-minute affair on opening day. I’ve been thinking about this since then, but Joe Posnanski’s post today gave me the push I need to crunch the numbers. He compared the average times for intra-division games in the American League. The Yankees and Red Sox led the way with the longest games in 2009, while the Mariners-Rangers matchups were the shortest.

I compiled the numbers for 38 Yankees-Red Sox games and 41 Mariners-Rangers games for which we have pitch time data from 2008, 2009 and 2010. Here is the breakdown.

                                        Boston-New York       Seattle-Texas
Event                                   Each     Per Game    Each    Per Game
Time between innings                    2:50       45:13     2:31      40:54
Pitching changes mid-inning             3:29        8:38     3:23       6:37
Time between at-bats, runners on        0:55       32:39     0:50      27:19
Time between at-bats, bases empty       0:43       15:55     0:38      14:05
Time between pitches, runners on        0:30       54:40     0:26      40:39
Time between pitches, bases empty       0:22       44:32     0:18      34:26
Other (rain delays, untimed pitches)     ---        8:59      ---       4:20
Total                                    ---     3:30:35      ---    2:48:19

Thanks to MLB Advanced Media and Sportvision for providing the detailed pitch time data.

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  1. Mike Fast said...

    Jeremy, I don’t know.  Perhaps batters take longer to make their way to the plate?  Or the catcher or coaches go out more often to talk to the pitcher?

    PD, that would be included in time between innings.

    MGL, that is the between the last pitch of one at bat and the first pitch of the next at bat, provided they occurred in the same half inning with the same pitcher.

  2. Mike Fast said...

    MGL, by way of further clarification, the data we have are time stamps for about 97-98% of the pitches.  So everything I’m measuring is based on time between pitches.

    I have no way of measuring how long a fielder took to field the ball or a baserunner took to run the bases.  Some other events, such as pickoff throws and coaching visits to the mound, are denoted in the data, but they are not time stamped, so I have no way of knowing how long anything took except to measure the time from one pitch to the next.

  3. Kanka said...

    Shouldn’t we also correct for the number of pitches, at-bats, etc?  We can’t call these games “slow” just because there’s more offense.

    Dividing the Per Game numbers by the Each numbers, I see that the BOS-NYY games have on average 0.5 more mid-inning pitching changes, 3 more at-bats, and 23.5 more pitches.

    Even so, that only accounts for about 15 minutes of the 42 minute disparity.  (Assuming, of course, I did my math correctly.)

  4. Mike Fast said...

    Kanka, that’s why I provided the data, so people could look at the facts for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

  5. Steve Treder said...

    This is great stuff, Mike.  The hugest gap is the time between pitches—when the ballplayers are avoiding (or at least postponing) ballplaying.  I would love it if MLB would just enforce its existing rules requiring the batter to get into the doggone box and the pitcher to make the doggone pitch, already.

    Thank you!

  6. Jeremy Greenhouse said...

    Great job, Mike. I’m most struck that there’s a difference in time between at-bats with the bases empty. What could that be?

  7. PD said...

    Is Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America”, played during the 7th inning stretch of every home Yankee game, accounted for?

  8. Lewis Brooks said...

    I’ll bet you’ll find that a lot of divisional rivalries for contending teams, games that mean a lot since you play so many times within your division, are closer to the Red Sox and Yankees than the Rangers and Mariners.  Just because the Red Sox vs. Yankees have the longest games, doesn’t mean they are that much longer than games of similar importance.  Comparing them to the Rangers and Mariners is useless.  When was the last time the Rangers and Mariners played a meaningful game?  When the game means nothing there is no reason not to move it along.  If the Red Sox or Yankees were in a division with Huston, Baltimore, Pittsburg, and Washington, I’m pretty sure those games would move along since they’d have the division won on Opening Day.

  9. DB said...

    God Bless Joe West.  The Yankees are the most unwatchable team in baseball because their games just drag.  As an NL fan, I always assumed it was a league thing, but apparently a sub 3 hour game can happen in the AL.

  10. Snuffy said...

    MLB created this monster with a series of changes over the years designed to create more offense.  Guess what—more offense means more time between outs.  Add to that the full 60 second jump in between-inings advertising time that occurred in a 10-15 year span (that’s 17 additional minutes per 9-inning game).  That’s what happens when you mess with perfection.

  11. MGL said...

    And pickoff attempts and step-offs and long counts on the rubber.  Does anyone actually watch any games?  wink

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