The length of a baseball game depends mainly on the division. Major League Baseball games almost always last longer than youth games. Minor League Baseball games and collegiate baseball games, on the other hand, are often the same length of time as an MLB game.
Other factors, such as extra-inning games, can also impact time. Matches against rival teams and quick-outs are other elements that determine the length of a game.
How Long is a Baseball Game? League Break Down
For the most part, a Major League Baseball game will last nine innings and take about three hours.
Collegiate games and Minor League Baseball games typically last as long as a major league game, with nine innings. The difference is that sometimes a collegiate baseball game will end early due to the mercy rule.
The mercy rule, or 10 Run Rule, means that a match will end two innings before usual if one team is up by 10 or more runs.
Most youth baseball games are seven innings and last two hours. High school baseball games almost always follow this average, but younger children may only play six innings, making the games a bit shorter.
A high school baseball game may take longer than a younger kids’ game because older children tend to spend more time focusing on their technique.
Finally, tee-ball games are the shortest. The average age of a tee-ball player is four to five years old and usually lasts just five innings, with a total time of about one and a half hours.
The average baseball game time is shorter for these young players so they don’t overexert themselves.
Factors That Can Affect the Length of the Game
The length of a baseball game can be affected by multiple factors, including whether or not the teams play for the standard nine innings, the time between plays, and even fan interaction.
Number of Innings
The number of innings played in a game will be the most significant determining factor in how long the game lasts. Major League Baseball games typically have nine innings, but technically, the number of innings can be indefinite if both teams are tied by the end of the ninth inning.
Little League games rarely play by the no-tie rules so that they don’t last for too long.
Innings in season and postseason games consist of two halves that make up one inning. In the first half an inning, the away team bats, and in the second half, the home team bats.
A half-inning ends when the fielding team manages to get three outs on the other team. The second half an inning also needs three outs for a total of six outs in an inning.
The only league that differs from this system of innings is tee-ball, where they do not count outs. Instead, each child gets to bat in each inning.
If the outs occur in only three pitches, then the half-inning will end quickly.
If the fielding team fails to get the correct number of outs, the inning can last much longer. Yet, on average, a baseball inning lasts about 20 minutes.
Unlike NFL, NBA, and NHL, an MLB game can technically last forever. The longest game in Major League Baseball history lasted eight hours and six minutes. In this match in 1984, the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers played twenty-five innings.
The longest game ever recorded was in a 1981 minor league game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, affiliates of two triple-A teams, which lasted 33 innings, much longer than the average game length.
Pitchers and Batters
Depending on how long they take between plays, pitchers and batters can affect how long baseball games last. A slow pitcher or batter can cause a game to continue for up to 15 to 20 minutes longer than expected.
A person who takes a long time between plays is called a human rain delay. Mike Hargrove and Steve Trachsel are examples of players who have donned this moniker.
The average game time has been increasing through the years because of pitchers and batters taking more time.
Today, a complete game typically goes on for three hours and eight minutes. In 2001, it was two hours and fifty-eight minutes, and in 1991 it was two hours and fifty-four minutes.
The number of at-bats in an inning also affects game length since a smaller number can shorten games while more can prolong them.
The official game time can also be affected by pitching changes since it slows down the game.
Interestingly, fans can affect the amount of time that a baseball game takes. Although it doesn’t happen often, certain events caused by or involving fans can prolong the game.
For example, on September 6th, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. beat Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played.
With President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson in the stands, Ripken hit a home run in the fourth inning. The crowd erupted into a standing ovation, and the baseball game didn’t start again for 22 minutes.
And, in 2019, a two-year-old girl was struck in the head by a foul ball by Chicago Cubs player Albert Almora Jr. The Major League Baseball game was delayed for a time as paramedics took the girl to the hospital, and Almora grieved for the accident.
And, of course, streakers can delay a game. For instance, a man put a Minor League Baseball game on hold in Florida after removing his clothes and running down the field.
Although extra innings are the main reason a game lasts for longer than usual, the length of a baseball game can continue past the average time because of factors such as
- if a batter calls a time out;
- high wind;
- cold or warm weather (baseball games played between 40 and 69 degrees are two to three minutes shorter on average than other games);
- if the mercy rule ends a game (although professional leagues do not have this rule);
- fights between two teams;
- instant replays;
- arguments with the umpire; and
- having more players on base.
Games between rival MLB teams, such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, are typically longer. Since these games often decide the winners of divisions, players take them more seriously.
A combination of the above factors can make a game last for more than four hours.
Also, new MLB promulgated rules introduced in 2015 attempted to shorten the average length of games. Now, a timer shortens the pitcher’s pace and coaches’ mound visits to ensure a baseball inning doesn’t last too long.
The length of a game largely depends on how many innings are in the match. For example, seven-inning games played by high schoolers will last a lot less time than a professional baseball game with extra innings.
Also, the skill level of the players determines the average time because it determines the number of innings. A youth league seven innings game won’t last as long as the nine-inning games played by minor leagues.
Finally, factors such as who the home team is playing against, how many players are at-bat in an inning, and pitching changes will determine how long baseball games last.