The pace of play is a present problem in MLB. The Red Sox have had a difficult season and their long games and slow pace are making them harder to watch.
This Boston Red Sox season has been difficult for players, the front office, and fans alike. They have been a tough team to watch and a shell of what they once were in 2018. This isn’t just because of poor performance; their games are taking too long to play.
Baseball and MLB are facing a lot of flak, and this is largely in part to games being too long and fans less willing to watch. Commissioner Rob Manfred has been trying to solve this problem by installing a 20-second play clock and limiting time between innings. But these tactics haven’t improved game time.
Each year since 2005, the average time of an MLB game has gone up all but three times. Back in 2005, the average game time was 2:49, and now it is 3:08. The average has gone up by 4 minutes since last season as well. The reality is that fans don’t want to sit down for three-plus hours and watch a baseball game anymore. In this day and age, there are so many other things to do and watch, and if the MLB doesn’t do something about it, baseball will fall even further out of popularity.
The Red Sox are a prime example of this. The average game time in MLB is 3 hours and 8 minutes. The Red Sox average time of games in 2019? 3 hours and 23 minutes. 15 minutes more than the average team. It’s unbearable. I love the Red Sox, but I don’t have the time or patience to watch this year’s average and frustrating team.
To add on to this, this season the Red Sox have played a whopping ten games over four hours, which is first in the league by two games. The average in the league is just 4.5 games over four hours. This Red Sox team is just not exciting, and if you add on the long games, it’s just not appealing for the common fan.
For reference, last year’s team had just nine games over four hours the whole year and zero over 4:40. That was a much more exciting team that just got things done; this year’s team isn’t that.
Where does this issue stem from? To me, it’s the constant pitching changes and pitchers taking way too long in between pitches. MLB needs to limit the number of pitching changes, especially in the same inning. Changing pitchers in the same inning is painful for viewers and turns a lot of people off. Make it a three batter minimum or something.
This problem is an MLB-wide problem but the Red Sox are a prime example of it. Pace is a stat that Fangraphs.com measures to calculate how many seconds on average it takes in between pitches. On the batting side, the Red Sox have the 2nd worst pace in the league (25.9 seconds), which means Sox batters are taking their time in between pitches, or opposing pitchers are taking too long to pitch to them. I would say it’s the former.
On the pitching side, the Red Sox have the slowest pace in the MLB (26.1 seconds). They have four players in the top 30 in slowest pace (min 30 IP), which is tied for most in the league. Those pitchers are Matt Barnes (30.7), Heath Hembree (30.1), David Price (29.6), and Ryan Brasier (29.0). And to add onto that, Price is the slowest starting pitcher (more than 80 IP). It’s hard to watch because it’s taking even longer than usual to get any sort of action.
MLB needs a better pitch clock (somewhere around 22 seconds), and they have stick to it. Penalize a pitcher for taking too long. It will speed the game up, and make baseball more interesting. MLB and the Red Sox desperately need it because right now, the Sox and their long games are getting difficult to watch.