Before the season started, Rob Manfred made it known that, despite being compared to Bud Selig by the media, he was looking at changing certain aspects of the game. Among other things, he discussed Pete Rose, defensive shifts, and the possibility of an international draft, all of which drew considerable discussion. The most, however, was made of his first real decision as Commissioner: to quicken the pace of play. By telling batters to keep one foot in the batter's box, enabling managers to issue a replay from the dugout, and issuing time limits for pitcher warm-ups, the hope was the average length of a game would decrease. Every team has played more than 90 games by now, so let's issue our first report card on Manfred's first decision.
According to this article, which also cites Baseball Prospectus, baseball games were, on average, 3 hours and 8 minutes in length during the 2014 season. According to data I've pulled from Baseball Reference (that is rounded to the nearest minute), Manfred's MLB has shortened baseball games by almost exactly 10 minutes to 2 hours and 58 minutes. Hooray! Right?
However, as recently as 2010, games averaged only 2 hours and 55 minutes in length. By no means should we be disappointed at an extra 3 minutes, but I think there's some room to grow. Truthfully, I don't even mind a long baseball game unless I'm sitting in one of the terribly uncomfortable ballpark seats. An evening game that lasts over three hours is my only issue. I hope the pace of play rules don't stop here, but this has certainly been a good start.
That being said, before the season started I discussed my opinion of the pace of play rules and the implications I thought it would have:
What seems more realistic to me is that this causes scoring to go down, or it at least continues the trend. I don't believe this to be from the realm of #HotTakes -- maybe #TepidTakes -- but the pace of play rules seem a lot more restrictive on hitters. Now, the hitters will have more to think about when they step into the batter's box and less time to do it because now the Aroldis Chapmans of the world are forced to work at Mark Buehrle's pace. Of course that's hyperbolic, but I don't believe it is an unreasonable expectation going into 2015.
Narrative, I think, supports my preseason assumptions. Every week it seems like some team (looking at you, Tampa Bay Rays) is getting almost no-hit. Zack Greinke is 18 innings away from setting a record for most consecutive shutout innings. Chris Sale is tying strikeout records set by Pedro. Max Scherzer is... doing what Max Scherzer does. This has to be true.
But, again, narrative fails me. On average, all 30 teams score 4.09 runs per game, up from 4.07 in 2014. It's not like 0.02 of a run sounds at all measurable, but it actually works out to 55 total runs. What happens if we remove the outlier Toronto Blue Jays, who are the only team with more than 5 runs per game? Well, removing 2014's highest scoring team as well (the Los Angeles Angels who scored a much more palatable 4.77 runs per game) results in 2015 only losing 0.04 runs (4.05) and 2014 dipping to 3.98.
Common wisdom suggests that low-scoring games are played in less time as well. Stray observation: the Blue Jays, despite scoring far and away the most runs per game, play the second shortest games on average (2:49, behind only Miami at 2:47). Likely a result of both Buehrle and Dickey working at brisk paces, if short, high-scoring games is what you want, the Blue Jays likely have you covered.
So, games are shorter and scoring is up. Sure, it isn't by much, but I'll be damned if someone takes my Rob Manfred posters down from every room in my house.
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Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. He does not have any Rob Manfred posters, although he might consider it if Kenesaw Mountain Landis' likeness is removed from the American League Most Valuable Player trophy. You can follow Michael on Twitter at @mwbii. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org