One of the things that make baseball stand out among other sports is the absence of the clock.
Instead of the clock, the length of a baseball game is determined by the number of innings.
At the adult level, the games usually last for nine innings. In youth baseball, the game is often limited to five or seven.
However, this doesn’t provide an answer to how long the whole game will last. As baseball games don’t have a set time limit, in theory, they can last forever.
This is also true for every single inning in the game. Of course, in real baseball games, this will never happen.
Still, to be able to at least approximately determine the length of a full game, we first have to know how long is an inning in baseball.
Below, I’ll look into how long an average innings lasts and what factors influence its duration.
So, let’s dive in!
How Long is an Inning in Baseball?
The length of an inning in a baseball game can vary greatly.
One inning lasts until each of the teams gets 3 outs or 6 outs total. The only exception is the ninth inning.
If a home team has the lead after the top half of the inning, the bottom half is not played, making these innings are twice shorter.
These rules are the same across all the levels of the game, except the Tee Ball.
Here, the outs are not counted and every player on a team gets a chance at-bat in each inning.
So, the length of the inning mainly depends on pitchers, batters, and fielders. Or to be more precise, how well they perform.
The quicker the pitchers can get the outs, the shorter will the inning last.
And vice-versa, good performance from the batters can extend the duration of the inning.
What is the Average Duration of an Inning in Baseball?
As I said, determining how long is an inning in baseball is not easy, as it depends on the player’s performance and numerous other factors.
In addition, since there’s no clock at MLB games measuring the length of innings, there’s no official data on the length of the innings.
In the 2021 regular season, the average length of an MLB game was 3 hours, 10 minutes, and 7 seconds.
Dividing this by 9, we get the duration of about 21.1 minutes for each inning.
Of course, this is not the best method as it doesn’t take into account breaks in play, pauses between innings, or pitching changes.
How Many Minutes can a Single Inning Take?
When a pitcher is on a roll and there’s are no hits, a half-inning can be done in 3-5 minutes.
If the opposing pitcher produces a similar performance, the full inning shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes.
However, if a pitcher has less control, walking too many hitters, a half-inning can easily reach 30 minutes.
The recent trend is that the length of MLB games is on a steady rise. Logically, this also means that the average innings are getting longer and longer.
Lately, the league has been trying to adjust some of the rules in order to speed up the games.
This includes giving the umpires more authority and freedom to penalize players who waste too much time in between the pitches.
They can now automatically call a ball or a strike before the pitch is even thrown.
How Many Parts are in an Inning?
The first half is called the top of the inning, while the second is, logically, the bottom of the inning.
In each of the two halves, one team is fielding, while, the other is at the bat. After each half-inning, they switch roles.
Visiting team is always first at the bat, during the top of the inning. This gives an advantage to the home team, as they get the last chance to score.
In case the game is played on a neutral ground, the home team is determined by mutual agreement.
If a home team leads after the top of the 9th inning, the bottom is not played as the winner is already decided.
Between each half-inning, there’s a transition period, the middle of the inning. During this time, players can quickly get back to the dugout and get their gear.
What Ends an Inning in Baseball?
A half-inning is finished when the fielding team has gotten three hitters (or runners) out.
When both teams have taken their turns at the bat and got three outs, the whole inning ends.
There are several ways for the fielding team to get the hitter out.
This happens when the fielder catches the ball batted by the hitter before it bounces off the ground.
The fielder doesn’t necessarily have to catch the ball in fair territory.
Fielders can put out the opposing team’s runner by tagging him while he’s not on the base.
For this to happen, the pitcher has to throw the ball in the “strike zone” or trick the hitter into a swing and miss.
The pitcher needs three strikes to strike the hitter out. The foul ball also counts as a strike.
How Long Does the Break Time Between Innings Last?
Amid complaints about the length of the games from fans and TV networks, MLB has been constantly trying to modify the rules so the games would be shorter.
Among those changes are those concerning the length of the break time between the innings.
Since 2015, the MLB games feature a timer measuring the period between innings and pitching changes.
In 2016, the league lowered the time available for the break to 2 minutes and 5 seconds for local broadcast and 2 minutes and 25 seconds for nationally televised games.
It was a 20-second decrease compared to the previous break time.
In 2019, it was shortened even further, to 2 minutes for both local and national broadcast.
However, a separate time of 2 minutes and 55 seconds is in effect during tiebreakers or playoff games.
The clock starts ticking when the final out of an inning is recorded.
What is the Longest Inning Ever Played?
It took place in Arlington, Texas, on May 8, 2004. The game was played between Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers.
The matchup eventually ended after ten innings, with the Rangers winning 16-15. The longest inning was the fifth one. It started with the Tigers at the bat.
The top of the inning kicked off with an 8 pitch walk, followed by the 7 and a 5 pitch walk.
By the time it was time to switch places, the Tigers have faced 54 pitches while recording 8 runs.
The bottom half took a long time to finish, too. While at the bat, the Rangers faced 56 pitches and scored 10 runs.
During the entire inning, there were 110 pitches and 18 runs., making it the longest inning in the MLB history.
If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, or just seen it on TV, you’re aware that they can be a rather long affair.
With each inning lasting around 20 minutes, you know that you’ll need to set aside at least three hours to see the whole ballgame.
Of course, how long is an inning in baseball depends on various circumstances.
Getting an out is far from easy and a team with a good batting lineup can drag the inning for more than half an hour.
On the other hand, a pitcher in good form can significantly shorten the length of the entire game.
Longer innings are perhaps more entertaining as there’s more offense, but most people are not prepared to dedicate that much of their time to a baseball game.
MLB has done a lot to speed the game up, but there’s still a tendency of games getting longer.