In 2014, scoring in Major League Baseball fell to 8.1 runs per game, a 20.8% drop in just 15 years. At the same time, MLB games averaged a record 3 hours, 2 minutes in 2014, a 15-minute increase in just the last ten years.
That combination creates the scary chart below in which scoring and the length of games are moving in opposite directions.
However, rookie Commissioner Rob Manfred says he is only worried about one of the lines and is hopeful the other will take care of itself.
MLB has already addressed the time of games by implementing new “pace of play” rules for the 2015 season, which will include a requirement for batters to remain in the batter’s box in between pitches if there was no swing, and a new clock limiting the time between innings.
A more extensive version of these pace of play rules shortened games in the Arizona Fall League by an average of ten minutes.
However, Manfred is less concerned about offence, noting that there is not the same “outcry for changes to promote offence” as there were for the pace-of-play changes, according to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Manfred also says the preferred outcome is to see hitters adjust and increase offence naturally.
“[Texas Rangers slugger] Prince Fielder actually laid down a bunt down the third-base line in a spring training game the other day,” said Manfred, referring to Fielder’s attempt to beat a defensive shift. “That kind of epitomizes the question in our minds: Are these great players going to adjust in a way that we don’t have to do anything? That’s the preferred outcome, from our perspective.”
Manfred’s point is a valid one. The chart above is only scary if the scoring is going down while games are getting longer. It is the combination of those two factors that creates what some feel are boring games. But as most baseball fans will tell you, a 2-1 game can be a very exciting game as long as it doesn’t take 3.5 hours, and a 3.5-hour game can be fun if the score is 10-9.
If baseball can fix one line (the time), they can afford to be patient and wait for the other line to fix itself.
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