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Saturday, November 02, 2019

Why did those World Series games last so long?

Baseball’s regular season has the pace-of-play problem with which we’re all familiar: Many of the 2,430 games take on dead time until they are boring, lulling. It’s a good dish, watered down until you don’t love it as much.

The postseason’s pace-of-play problem is different. It’s not that games get boring, since a World Series game is almost always tense and urgent, and if you’re on a cross-country flight with cable TV access you will enjoy every moment of it. But most people aren’t on cross-country flights. Most people have full lives, and they have to squeeze in their baseball indulgences among other obligations, like family, and sleep, and moving at least once every four hours to avoid nerve damage. These postseason games are thrilling, but they are so lengthy that they become impractical for many otherwise enthusiastic customers—a good dish that goes cold before it can be finished.

Nearly every game in this World Series was long, even by World Series standards. Of the 13 longest nine-inning World Series games this decade, six came this year. Game 3, a 4-1 Houston victory, took 4 hours, 3 minutes

...

In some ways, the most discouraging part of the pace of these games is how well disguised the slowness is. It’s not that the games are slow for reasons that are anomalous (like 15-14 slugfests) or that could be easily legislated away (like limiting constant mound visits by catchers, which have been sharply curtailed since the 2017 postseason) or that would be delightful (very good dogs running onto the field to frolic). Rather, they’re slow because ... well, why are they slow?

A case study in pace-of-play issues, using Game 3 of the World Series.

 

 

QLE Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:17 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pace of play, world series

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: November 02, 2019 at 01:14 AM (#5898046)
Of the 13 longest nine-inning World Series games this decade, six came this year.

Oof.

These postseason games are thrilling, but they are so lengthy that they become impractical for many otherwise enthusiastic customers

As I implied in another thread, I don't really think that is true as stated. East Coast viewers have to stay up until midnight, not really a huge ask, many already do this or come close (local news comes on at 11 for example). Midwest viewers wrap up at 11, Mountain at 10 and the West Coasters are struggling to get home in time. Sure, by definition, any 4-hour stretch is more likely to conflict with some other aspect of life than a 3-hour event. But if there's an issue it's that, dragged out to 4 hours, it is boring, even in the WS.

As the article notes at the start, the average regular season game was 3 hours, 5 minutes and the average 4-1 game was 10 minutes shorter than that. So this clearly isn't standard "why won't that guy throw a f'ing pitch?" (Now as I noted, the fact that all the games were won by the road team meant that the bottom of the 9th was always played while it probably only gets played in about half the regular season games. So that's probably 5 minutes extra time right there.

The culprits in this game and most postseason games:

Longer commerical breaks
More mid-inning pitching changes
More PA per game this series (esp relative to recent WS)** esp true for G3 apparently (b9 thing and high OBP)
(More pitches per PA but not in G3)
More "regular" time between pitches with men on base (and with more men on base ...)
WS pitchers are even slower (1.5 seconds slower empty, 3 with men on ... and Sanchez and Greinke were particularly bad)
Lots of pickoff throws in this game

They summarize it into 3 factors:

17 minutes to commercials, not gonna change
27 minutes to the game structure -- i.e. a regular season game with this many runners, mid-inning changes, etc. would have been 27 minutes longer
24 minutes to extra post-season dawdling

As the article notes, sometimes that post-season dawdling is very noticeable (Greinke walking around the mound, collecting himself) but a lot of it is just an extra beat, an extra shake-off, an extra toss to 1B that you wouldn't notice. Given the importance, do we really want to get rid of a pitcher taking an extra deep breath?

So maybe we can't do anything about the post-season games slowing down relative to regular season ... but if you speed up the regular season game ...

Or the article makes a good point. Maybe you put in a pitch clock specifically to help the offense. It claims there's evidence pitching more slowly helps pitchers. So intentionally speed them up not so much to shorten game times but to increase offense. The only thing keeping offenses alive is the rabbit ball -- so maybe ditch that but speed pitchers up and maybe you keep the same scoring while making the game more active and shorter.

I'm not sure how true that hypothesis is -- I assume it is but I'm not sure it's a big effect -- but more importantly I'm not sure how you come up with a single clock time that works. Apparently the average regular season time between pitches is 20 seconds. But that average is a bit faster with nobody on, bit slower with men on. And it's an average so obviously sometimes it's 10-15 seconds, sometimes 25-30.

Now obviously we could put a pitch clock at 20 seconds which would get rid of all the longer pitches and surely reduce average time between pitches at least a bit. But if they know they can't take 30 seconds when they think they need it, pitchers will be sure to take nearly 20 seconds on every pitch in hopes extra rest when they don't need it will balance off less rest when they do. (And obviously a rulebook 30-second pitch clock will get rid of only the most egregious while encouraging them to add 10 seconds to pitches with nobody on.)

Maybe something like 15 seconds with nobody on, add 5 seconds for each man on, 15 seconds after any pickoff attempt or other delaying action by the pitcher.
.

** A combined 331 OBP they say, highest since 2011, despite the moderate scoring. Apparently the WS average this decade 10-18 was 299.
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 02, 2019 at 01:25 AM (#5898048)
a lot of it is just an extra beat, an extra shake-off, an extra toss to 1B that you wouldn't notice. Given the importance, do we really want to get rid of a pitcher taking an extra deep breath?
If it happened once, no. Five times per inning? Absolutely.
   3. Bote Man Posted: November 02, 2019 at 03:00 AM (#5898053)
They would've lasted longer, but Fox had no way to pay for more dugout interviews.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: November 02, 2019 at 07:35 AM (#5898055)
These postseason games are thrilling, but they are so lengthy that they become impractical for many otherwise enthusiastic customers


As I implied in another thread, I don't really think that is true as stated.

An yet, many otherwise enthusiastic customers at this site say it is true.
   5. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:15 AM (#5898058)
Or the article makes a good point. Maybe you put in a pitch clock specifically to help the offense. It claims there's evidence pitching more slowly helps pitchers


this is obvious, I dont know why it took you many paragraphs to get to this point.

Dont you think with less time between pitches managers will have less time to get people warmed up and less time to think about how many pitchers they are going to bring in which situation?

Ive got to believe if the game was moving at a faster pace you just wouldnt seem them bring in that many specialists to get one out or face one batter. It takes time to think about how to do that and it takes time to warm them up.

A faster paced game would have more side effects than you're giving credit for.
   6. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:17 AM (#5898060)
...if they know they can't take 30 seconds when they think they need it, pitchers will be sure to take nearly 20 seconds on every pitch in hopes extra rest when they don't need it


Then they are going to risk getting called for a ball on every single pitch. WHy would anyone do that? I mean maybe a few pitchers would, but you cant assume every single pitcher is going to milk the clock for every second he can. Because there's a down side to that youre not considering.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:03 PM (#5898097)
Are there more pitches nowadays? It seems like there were a TON of 3-2 counts, many with several foul balls, and almost no first pitch ball in play at-bats. He writes there were 3.93 pitches per PA in Game 3. I just looked at the four games of the '89 Series and they had 3.85, 3.69, 3.21, and 3.28 pitchers per PA, respectively.
   8. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:32 PM (#5898100)
I think the league is avg. about 4.1 pitches/AB the last few years, if I recall...
   9. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:39 PM (#5898104)
As I implied in another thread, I don't really think that is true as stated. East Coast viewers have to stay up until midnight, not really a huge ask
It's not a huge ask if it's once or twice. 7 times in 9 days? Yeah, I think for most people it is, and should not be downplayed.

A game that ends at midnight doesn't for most people mean you're asleep at 12:01. I rarely go to sleep before 11 p.m., but I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of this series (and I actually turned in early for one of them). I doubt I was alone for East Coasters with "normal" hours.
   10. KronicFatigue Posted: November 02, 2019 at 12:56 PM (#5898108)
As the article notes, sometimes that post-season dawdling is very noticeable (Greinke walking around the mound, collecting himself) but a lot of it is just an extra beat, an extra shake-off, an extra toss to 1B that you wouldn't notice. Given the importance, do we really want to get rid of a pitcher taking an extra deep breath?


Yes. As others have mentioned, decreasing the time will make pitchers less effective. But also, I want hitters to have less time getting ready. I want a grip it and rip it approach to pitching and hitting. Less perfection means more balls in play. Being able to pitch or hit quickly is a skill and that skill should be rewarded.
   11. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 05:49 PM (#5898179)
Seconded. Its a zero sum issue, working fast will affect both teams equally. THe idea that they need to slow down cause its a world series game I dont get. THe quality of the game wont suffer, hitters on both sides will likely benefit so whats the problem?
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 02, 2019 at 07:22 PM (#5898211)
Because each player/team wants to be the one to slow down *more* than their opponent, thus thinking they gain an advantage. That’s the ‘thinking’ that got us here.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: November 02, 2019 at 07:25 PM (#5898212)
I dont know why it took you many paragraphs to get to this point.

I was following the article which brings this up at the end. And no, nobody really proposes speeding pitchers up to increase offense because nobody is trying to increase offense. And of course all those early paragraphs were summarizing the article which was not about "here's how to speed things up" but was about "here's where the time went." The paragraph you had to wait so long for was the 2nd paragraph that discusses what might be done to speed things up and consequences thereof. If you thought my treatment was long, you would have really enjoyed the article.

Naturally, a few posts later, rather than saying this will increase offense, you say "Its a zero sum issue." So will it boost offense or not?

You think giving SPs less time to recover between pitches in stressful situations and boosting offense is going to lead to those SP being left in the game longer? That makes no sense at all.

Computers actually make planning out these scenarios pretty easy. But, if necessary, managers will just get relievers warming at the start of the inning or be even more aggressive about relievers starting the inning or sticking to a pre-inning plan like "SP for 1st batter, LHR for LHB 2nd batter, RHR."

WHy would anyone do that?

First, you train yourself to go at 18-19 seconds, not hard. Why would anyone do that? I explained that quite clearly. If you are not going to allow pitchers to take 30 seconds when they feel they need it then they will have no choice but to take those extra seconds where they can. A pitcher is not going to shift from 10-15 seconds with nobody on and 30 seconds with somebody on to 10-15 seconds with nobody on and 18 seconds with somebody on, that just guarantees they will be leaving the game earlier than before. They will hope that taking an extra 5 seconds between less-stressful pitches will partially compensate for not taking an extra 15-20+ seconds between stressful ones. That might not help but they'd be idiots not to try it.

An yet, many otherwise enthusiastic customers at this site say it is true.

Enthusiastic customers here say all sorts of stuff that isn't true and mistake their personal preferences with fundamental issues with the game all the time. But even if it's true, it's a balance between losing some late-night East Coasters and allowing more West Coasters to see earlier innings. Somebody on the West Coast should have to get home by 4 pm so somebody on the East Coast can turn it off at 11?

But yes. I will now confuse my personal behavior with what is right and proper -- I sometimes get up at 4 am to watch Cub games. I have stayed up until 2 am or gotten up at 4 am to watch World Cup soccer and rugby. I took some time off work to watch the 2016 WS because those games start at 11 am here. Watching the WS is nothing compared with watching the 3-week Euro cycling grand tours from Australia. I know a guy who paid something like $40 for a few hours of satellite internet connection in the middle of the Canadian Rockies so he could LISTEN to the radio broadcast of a relatively meaningless All Blacks game in the middle of the night. Enthusiastic fans do these things without much complaining. I have no problem with MLB expecting genuine fans (on the East Coast only) to watch until midnight. The legit criticism here is that kids sholdn't be expected to do that.

I'm not arguing in favor of 4-hour games. I am arguing that a 4-hour game is frequently not very exciting because of all the dead time. The issue isn't staying up until midnight, the issue is staying awake (and not flipping channels) when things are dragging out. I am surmising that a close, snappy, 5-4 3-hour game that starts at 9 would be no big deal while that same game starting at 8 but stretched out over 4 hours is problematic. (That's among the reasons I stopped watching football.) I'm suggesting you see a similar drop off in the Midwest as on the East Coast (don't know if that's true) even though it only runs until 11.

Are there more pitches nowadays?

You seem to mean pitches/PA as opposed to total pitches. The point of the article was to time this game relative to a 2019 regular season game (and somewhat to previous 2010s WS). The difference between G3 p/pa and regular season p/pa was trivial ... but yes, at least through G5 or 6 (whenever I looked at it), p/pa this WS were slightly higher than the regular season. And I'd assume relative to recent WS, p/pa may have been higher since there were more men on (guessing p/pa are higher with men on usually) and two good, patient offenses. There were also more total pitches for the reasons outlined -- higher OBP and b9 always played meant more PAs.

There were some quite long innings and Scherzer was generally something of a mess. He needed 112 pitches to get through 5 innings in G1 (allowing 8 runners) and 103 for 5 innings in G7 (allowing 11 runners). Sanchez in G3 didn't throw that many pitches (93 in 5.1) but he allowed 11 runners while Greinke allowed 10 in his 4.2 IP (95 pitches). Verlander ended up with a WHIP over 1.6. The Nats as a team had a WHIP over 1.5 when the worst in MLB this year was the Rox at 1.49.

Games also had an odd structure with lots of close tight games through 6 innings that then got busted open. So you get long and slow innings early because every baserunner is key and there were lots of them ... then one long inning when one team scores 4+ runs ... at which point there's little reason to watch. So you'd have inning after inning of "a hit here would bust the game open" but that hit didn't come until the 7th. That can be exciting of course but not so much when that takes 3 hours and the tension comes from top pitchers letting lots of guys reach base. So a further odd mix of great pitchers not pitching great (esp not two in one game) along with top offenses not coming through which makes things seem sloppy and frustrating. If all you saw of these teams were these 7 games, would any of us come away thinking these were two top teams?

Which is the other aspect of watching until midnight ... why? G1 and G7 you'd stay up for all of, maybe G3 (on a Friday). But these games were usually over after the 7th.
   14. Baldrick Posted: November 02, 2019 at 07:56 PM (#5898215)
As I implied in another thread, I don't really think that is true as stated. East Coast viewers have to stay up until midnight, not really a huge ask, many already do this or come close (local news comes on at 11 for example). Midwest viewers wrap up at 11, Mountain at 10 and the West Coasters are struggling to get home in time. Sure, by definition, any 4-hour stretch is more likely to conflict with some other aspect of life than a 3-hour event. But if there's an issue it's that, dragged out to 4 hours, it is boring, even in the WS.

An extra hour is a lot. It's literally an entire extra hour.

People are busy. It can already be a stretch to set aside three hours. It's quite a bit more to know that you'll probably need four, or maybe more.
   15. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:11 PM (#5898217)
you say "Its a zero sum issue." So will it boost offense or not?


Im not sure it will boost offense. ANd I have no idea why you are tying that idea to the concept of zero sum.

IF we boost offense, that's still a zero issue. It should effect both teams equally. What is your pt in bringing that up?

The reason I brought up zero sum was because earlier you said we should let pitchers have more time because the games are more important. WHy? Having less time will effect both teams equally. Whats the problem with that?
   16. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:13 PM (#5898219)

First, you train yourself to go at 18-19 seconds, not hard.


...because you say so.
   17. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:14 PM (#5898221)
If you are not going to allow pitchers to take 30 seconds when they feel they need it then they will have no choice but to take those extra seconds where they can. A pitcher is not going to shift from 10-15 seconds with nobody on and 30 seconds with somebody on to 10-15 seconds with nobody on and 18 seconds with somebody on, that just guarantees they will be leaving the game earlier than before. They will hope that taking an extra 5 seconds between less-stressful pitches will partially compensate for not taking an extra 15-20+ seconds between stressful ones. That might not help but they'd be idiots not to try it.


OK lets say this is all true, I dont think it is but lets assume so....

ARE YOU AGAINST ENFORCING A PITCH CLOCK OR NOT?
   18. Sunday silence Posted: November 02, 2019 at 08:15 PM (#5898222)

I was following the article which brings this up at the end


OK I didnt realize that. I thought you were just doing some ad hoc speculation thing.
   19. Skloot Insurance Posted: November 02, 2019 at 09:40 PM (#5898228)
World Series game times this year were obnoxious, especially for East Coasters.

Almost without fail, the clock would strike 11 and there was no end in sight! Typically, the game would be just entering the seventh inning.

I made exceptions for Game 6 and 7, but not the others. As soon as the score got lopsided, which thankfully was often, it was lights out.

I love the MLB postseason product, but not enough to sacrifice sleep I need for my job and my family.

2019 MLB postseason: 2 out of 5 stars.
   20. The Duke Posted: November 02, 2019 at 10:24 PM (#5898235)
I found myself just shutting down around the 7th inning. Surely they have stats that show how any people start to turn off the TV. It seems like 20 minutes of extra ads goes a long way to having audience disappear. Maybe it’s still worth it. I assume it is in the moment but can’t be good for the game long term
   21. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: November 04, 2019 at 12:19 AM (#5898427)
They would've lasted longer, but Fox had no way to pay for more dugout interviews.

More shots of the dugout = more opportunity for Joe Buck to give a lifeless recitation of ad copy for Apple.
   22. Bote Man Posted: November 04, 2019 at 12:48 AM (#5898431)
Social commentary: there is value in "down time". Perhaps our lives wouldn't seem so harried if we didn't try to fill every millisecond with some activity where we have to go here, do this, run over there, do that, rush, rush, rush all the time. The pace of baseball developed over many decades as an escape from the worries of day-to-day life. Perhaps there's a lesson buried in there? </social commentary>
   23. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 04, 2019 at 01:45 AM (#5898439)
The pace of baseball developed over many decades as an escape from the worries of day-to-day life.

And then in the 21st century, it got much slower.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 04, 2019 at 09:03 AM (#5898451)
A game that ends at midnight doesn't for most people mean you're asleep at 12:01. I rarely go to sleep before 11 p.m., but I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of this series (and I actually turned in early for one of them). I doubt I was alone for East Coasters with "normal" hours.

Exactly. Especially if it's a dramatic, tension filled ending. My brain just doesn't turn off like that. Game ending at midnight means I'm asleep at 1AM at the earliest.

The pace of baseball developed over many decades as an escape from the worries of day-to-day life.


Sure, now instead of worrying about work and stuff, I'm worried about when this ####### pitcher is going to throw the damn ball.

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