One of the main differences between baseball and other major sports is that there’s no time limit in baseball.
There’s no ticking clock determining when exactly the game has to finish.
So, the answer to the question of how long do baseball games last can vary from game to game.
The length of the game depends on a lot of things and various factors can make a game longer or shorter.
One thing is certain – if you plan to watch baseball, be prepared to set aside a significant chunk of your time.
You’ll likely have to plan your whole day around the game.
For true baseball fans, this is not a problem as they enjoy and savor every moment of the game.
However, for those less enthusiastic about baseball, the length of the game can often seem like an eternity.
How Long Do Baseball Games Last?
There’s no precise answer to this question, and here’s why.
A baseball game lasts 9 innings. If the score is tied, teams will play extra innings to determine the winner.
All things considered, on average, most of the MLB games finish in about three hours.
In the 2020 season , the league introduced 7-inning doubleheaders, making those games about a half-hour shorter.
Still, this rule was created to help players due to the condensed schedule during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we’ll see if it is here to stay.
Average MLB Game Length
In the current, 2022 season, an MLB baseball game runs for 3 hours and 7 minutes on average.
This continues the trend over the last couple of years where games usually run for more than three hours.
In all of Major League history, the first season with 3 or more hours of average game length happened only 22 years ago, in 2000.
That season the average game lasted for 3 hours and 1 minute and we had to wait another 12 years for the next occurrence of a 3-hour season.
Below is the list of the average game times in the MLB since season 2000.
- 2022 3:07
- 2021 3:11
- 2020 3:06
- 2019 3:10
- 2018 3:04
- 2017 3:08
- 2016 3:04
- 2015 3:00
- 2014 3:07
- 2013 3:04
- 2012 3:00
- 2011 2:56
- 2010 2:54
- 2009 2:55
- 2008 2:55
- 2007 2:55
- 2006 2:51
- 2005 2:49
- 2004 2:51
- 2003 2:49
- 2002 2:56
- 2001 2:58
- 2000 3:01
This is the data for regular season games. During the postseason, games are even longer and frequently go on for 4 hours or more.
The fascinating piece of information is that the average length of a playoff game has increased by no less than 22 minutes in just 10 years, from 2011 to 2021.
How Long do Minor League Games Last?
Just like in the MLB, Minor League games last for 9 innings. For years, the average game length didn’t differ much from the Majors, nearing 3 hours.
However, in 2015, the league began introducing pitch games for the games played in the Minors.
The pitch clock is used to limit the amount of time available to the pitcher before he throws the ball to the batter.
Initially, it was used only at Triple-A and Double-A leagues, but now it’s also implemented across the lower levels of play.
The use of a pitch clock resulted in significantly reduced overall game time.
According to the study conducted by the league, games with a pitch clock active are on average about 20 minutes shorter than ones without it.
Additionally, fewer pitching changes due to the lack of roster depth and fewer replays in the Minor League, also impact and shorten the game length.
How Long do College Baseball Games Last?
As another level of adult baseball, collegiate baseball games also last for 9 innings or around 3 hours.
However, there are a few exceptions. Typically, when there’s a doubleheader, both games would last for only 7 innings.
In addition, several college baseball conferences implement the “mercy rule.”
This means that when one of the teams is 10 or more innings ahead of their opponents after 7 innings (or 6 and a half if the home team is winning), the play is terminated and the team in the lead is the winner.
Similar to the MiLB, college baseball also features a 20-seconds pitch clock.
In addition, a batter who steps out of the box with less than 5 seconds on the clock will be punished with an additional strike.
The pitch clock was introduced in college baseball even earlier than in the Minors, making its debut in the Southeastern Conference in 2015.
How Long do High School Games Last?
Baseball games in high school competitions are limited to 7 innings.
The main reason for this is the age of the players and shorter games are a way to save them from having to withstand too much fatigue and thus lessen injury risks.
This means that games are not as long as at higher levels of baseball and usually last between 2 and 2.5 hours.
However, the length may often vary, as the level of talent on different school rosters commonly dictates the pace of play.
Often the game will be called if it doesn’t finish in the predetermined time (usually 2 hours). Leagues at the high school level also typically implement the mercy rule.
How Long do Youth Baseball Games Last?
Due to the different levels of skill and athletic ability, the length of a game in the Little League can vary greatly depending on the age group.
Still, they commonly last 1.5 to 2 hours, with a time limit often in place.
The youngest kids in tee-ball games usually play 3-5 innings, while the Little League’s Minor and Major Division play 6 innings.
In the Intermediate, Junior, and Senior League, the number of innings is 7.
The Length of a Baseball Game Through Years
Over the years, baseball games became longer and longer.
In the 2021 season, the length of the average game is 3 hours and 8 minutes.
According to the MLB, the average length of the game in the previous season was a bit over 3 hours and 5 minutes.
That is a significant increase over, for example, the 2001 season when the games lasted 2 hours and 59 minutes.
If we go farther back, the difference is even greater. In 1991, the average major league game lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes.
This is the date for the regular season, in playoffs, the games are even longer.
Here’s an interesting fact for you:
While the games overall take more than three hours, there are only around 18 minutes of total action over the course of a whole game.
So, what influences how long do baseball games last?
Factors that Add Time to a Baseball Game
An average MLB game features between 3 and 5 pitching changes by each team.
Every pitching change stops the action while the manager walks to the mound, waits for the umpire to head out, only for the reliever to slowly jog from the bullpen to take his place at the mound.
A Higher Number Of Strikeouts
Recently, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of strikeouts.
It’s not unusual for a player to strike out more than 10 times over the course of the season.
This means that more hitters going deep into count than making contact with the ball early and fewer outs in the field than through the strikeout.
The result is a significantly longer game.
The Prolonged Time Between Pitches
Pro pitchers like to take their time and work slowly, particularly near the end of close games.
Also, when the catcher will often head to the mound after being shaken off by the pitcher.
Can a Baseball Game Go On Forever?
If the game is tied after the ninth, the winner is determined after extra innings which continue until the tie is broken.
So, in theory, a baseball game can last forever.
Of course, in reality, this doesn’t happen, although there are examples of games lasting over 20 innings and going on for hours.
What is the Longest Baseball Game Ever Played?
Longest Baseball Game Ever
The longest game ever in professional baseball took place in 1981.
It happened in the Triple-A International League as the Pawtucket Red Sox hosted the Rochester Red Wings at the McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.
The Red Sox won the game 3-2 after playing staggering 33 innings. 32 of those innings were played on April 18 and 19 while the last inning took place on June 23.
Overall, the game lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes.
Longest MLB Game Ever
In the MLB, the longest game in history lasted 26 innings. It was the 1920 game between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins.
However, as the pace of the play was faster back then, the game took only 3 hours and 50 minutes.
As for the elapsed time, the record belongs to the White Sox – Brewers matchup from May 8-9, 1984. The game was completed after 8 hours and 6 minutes.
What was the Shortest Baseball Game Ever?
Unlike today, a 100 or so years ago, some teams went to the extremes to make the game as short as possible.
Plate appearances took no more than 30 seconds and pitchers wasted no time between throws or innings.
So, most of the shortest ball games ever come from that era.
Shortest Baseball Game Ever
The shortest game ever recorded was a class D matchup between the Asheville Tourists and the Winston-Salem Twins on August 30, 1916. The game lasted only 31 minutes.
Interestingly, the main reason for the lighting speed of this game was that the Twins’ players had to catch the train out of town.
Shortest MLB Game Ever
As for the MLB, the fastest 9-inning game happened on September 28, 1919.
The matchup between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies at the Polo Grounds lasted only 51 minutes.
Some people simply can’t get enough of baseball and the length of the game doesn’t matter much to them.
Still, in the modern world, people have less and less free time and are often don’t have enough time to watch the 3-hour game.
Especially since due to the varying length, they can’t exactly plan their time.
Besides, the uncertainty about how long the ballgame lasts puts a dent in the schedule of TV networks.
This puts pressure on the governing bodies of baseball to shorten the games, while still preserving the rhythm that makes the game so exciting.
MLB has already made some moves to reduce the game-time, but so far, the data tells us that the games are only getting longer with each year.