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How Long Do Baseball Games Last?

Beginning with the 2023 season, the MLB added a pitch clock to help speed up the game. Only time will tell how effective this rule is in the long run, but at first glance, the length of baseball games has been cut down by about 30 minutes. In fact, I got out of the Rockies’ 2023 opening day game in about two and a half hours! But even with the new pitch clock rules, many people simply want to know – how long is a baseball game?

The average length of a 9-inning baseball game can last between two hours and forty minutes to three hours and eleven minutes. In the 2023 MLB season, the average length of a baseball game was two hours and forty minutes.

Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs playing at Coors Field in 2021

After some research, I learned the average length of a baseball game has varied quite in the MLB since the early 1900s. In fact, the first time the average length of a baseball game reached 3 hours was during the 2012 MLB season! Keep reading to learn how the average length of a baseball game has varied over the past 100+ years.

Average Length of MLB Games By Year

The chart below shows how long the average baseball game length has been over a 20-year span, between the years 2004 and 2023.

Bar chart showing the average length of a baseball game between the years of 2004 and 2023

As of the 2023 season, the average length of an MLB game was 2 hours and 40 minutes. This is a drop of 26 minutes from the previous season.

We commonly hear that a 9-inning baseball game lasts 3 hours, but it turns out the average length of a baseball game didn’t reach 3 hours until the 2012 season! In fact, the average baseball game time has been trending upward until the new pitch clock rules were implemented for the 2023 season.

YearAverage MLB Game Time

After looking through some more data, one thing that was even more shocking to me was that MLB games used to finish in under 2 hours. Between 1901 and 1933, it was common for MLB games to be completed in under 2 hours.

Bar chart showing the average length of a baseball game between the years of 1901 and 1933
YearAverage MLB Game Time

It’s crazy to think an entire baseball game can be completed in under 2 hours, but it was the norm between the 1901 and 1933 seasons!

While the information above (courtesy of Baseball Reference) is showing the average game time for an entire game of baseball, there’s one more way to measure how long is a baseball game – by removing all extra innings.

Average Length of a 9-Inning Game By Year

It’s great to look at how long an entire game of baseball takes, but when you measure the length of all baseball games from start to finish it becomes difficult to tell if a game went long because of extra innings.

As it turns out, we can also look at how long baseball games take per year while also removing extra innings from the equation. What’s the average length of a baseball game if you remove extra innings?

The average length of a 9-inning MLB game ranges between two hours and thirty-eight minutes to three hours and ten minutes.

Bar chart showing the average length of a 9-inning baseball game between the years of 2004 and 2023

While there’s a very small difference in the amount of time when measuring the total time of a baseball with or without extra innings, it does show that all the extra-inning games played over the course of one season will bump up the average game time by 1 to 5 minutes.

YearAverage MLB Game Time For 9 Innings

9 Factors That Influence the Length of a Baseball Game

There is not one universal reason why baseball games take so long. Instead, there are a multitude of reasons. And when all of those reasons interact with each other, baseball game time tends to increase.

Below is a list of potential reasons why baseball games take so long.

1) Relief Pitchers Need Time to Warm-Up

Left-handed pitcher wearing white jersey delivering a pitch

Probably one of the biggest reasons why baseball games take so long is that relief pitchers need time to warm up when they come into the game.

Relief pitchers tend to come into the game during the middle of an inning and they are allowed to throw warm-up pitches off of the mound. This additional time for warm-up pitches will extend the length of that inning.

Additionally, managers tend to use multiple relief pitchers per game. So there can be multiple times in a game where a relief pitcher is extending the inning by warming up.

Back in the early 1900s, it was very common for pitchers to pitch the entire game. Most games used one pitcher and very rarely they would use a second pitcher. So these games didn’t have the interruptions from relief pitchers that we know today.

Some stats on Baseball Reference show that baseball games didn’t start averaging 2 pitchers per game until the 1945 season!

During the 2023 season, games use an average of 4 pitchers per game. That’s quadruple the number of pitchers used during the early 1900s!

With all those extra relief pitchers coming into the game, the length of baseball games naturally increased.

2) Extra Innings

Not all games end in 9 innings.

In Major League Baseball, games are not allowed to end in a tie. So if a game is tied after 9 innings, additional innings are played until there is a winner.

Each inning in baseball lasts roughly 15-20 minutes. So a game that goes two additional innings can take an additional 30-40 minutes to finish!

At any point in history, roughly 7-10% of all Major League Baseball games in a season will end in a tie.

3) Pitchers Taking Too Long To Deliver the Next Pitch

Before new rules were added for the 2023 season, pitchers were allowed to call time, step off the mound, and throw as many pick-off attempts as they wanted. There simply was no limit to how long a pitcher could wait before delivering the next pitch.

The new rules introduced for the 2023 season looked to address that issue by limiting how many times a pitcher could disengage from the mound and adding a pitch clock.

If pitchers disengage from the mound too many times, a balk is called.

4) Batters Taking Too Long to Step Into the Batter’s Box Between Pitches

Before new rules were introduced for the 2023 season, batters could call time in between pitches and take as long as they wanted to before stepping back into the batter’s box.

Probably the most extreme example of this is when Mike Hargrove took his turn at the plate. Mike Hargrove was known as “The Human Rain Delay” because of how long he took to get ready in between pitches.

The new rules added for the 2023 season looked to address that issue by limiting how many times a batter could call time and requiring batters to be in the batter’s box and ready to swing with no less than 8 seconds left on the pitch clock.

If a batter breaks one of these rules, a strike is called.

5) Rain Delays Extend Game Times

Cloudy Colorado Rockies game in 2018

Unlike other sports that allow players to play in the rain, baseball games are commonly delayed because of rain.

Rain delays can easily take hours, adding to the total length of a baseball game.

6) Very Cold and Very Warm Weather Leads to Longer Baseball Games

It turns out both cold and warm games lead to longer game times.

According to some interesting research by All My Sports Teams Suck, “the games from 40-69 degrees are between 1.8-3.2 minutes faster than games outside of that temperature range.”

There can be some debate around the why behind this difference, but one suggestion is that players, especially pitchers, need more substitute players during warmer and colder games. If pitchers are being changed out more, then the length of the game would naturally be extended.

7) Fights Delay Games

Baseball is a competitive sport and that competition can sometimes lead to heated arguments.

Whenever a fight breaks out on the field, the game is temporarily paused until both teams settle down and are back in their dugouts.

It is also common that after a fight settles down, an umpire will allow the pitcher a few warm-up pitches to get ready for the next batter.

A combination of a fight breaking out and allowing a pitcher a few warm-up pitches leads to a much longer inning.

8) Injury Delays

Injuries suck, but they occur all the time in baseball.

If an injury occurs on the field, play is stopped until the player is attended to. Depending on the injury, this can take a few seconds to a few minutes.

And if the play has been stopped long enough because of an injury, umpires will sometimes allow pitchers to throw warm-up pitches to get ready for the next batter.

9) Random Events Occur on the Field

Sometimes, random events occur on the field that stops the game. These events include, but are not limited to:

How Do Game Times of Other Baseball Leagues Compare to the MLB?

Baseball games vary in innings played and time played depending on the type of league being discussed.

Professional baseball games technically have no time limit, but when averaged out, most Major League and Minor League games are 9 innings and last between 2.5 and 3 hours.

Let’s take a high-level look at the number of innings played and the average time length of baseball games by the type of baseball league.

Baseball LeagueInnings PlayedAverage Game Length
Tee-Ball (ages 4-5)3-51.5 hours
Minor Leauge (ages 5-11)62 hours
Major Division (ages 9-12)62 hours
Intermediate (50/70) (ages 11-13)72 hours
Junior Leauge (ages 12-14)72 hours
Senior Leauge (ages 13-16)72 hours
Babe Ruth (ages 13-15)72 hours
High School (ages 15-18)72 hours
College (ages 18 and above)92.5 – 3 hours
Minor League (ages 18 and above)92.5 – 3 hours
Major League (ages 18 and above)92.5 – 3 hours

The above graph lists the average number of innings played as well as the average time duration for Little League through the Major League. The innings played and the time played can vary from game to game and it depends on the rules of the league.

For example, a 7-inning game baseball game tends to last 2 hours.

How Long is One Inning in Baseball?

One inning generally lasts between 15 to 20 minutes. This includes the time it takes for both teams to reach 3 outs in one inning.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.

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