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‘It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over’: Speeding Up Baseball

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kenyon chapter.

“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”

Yogi Berra

“Baseball is a really slow sport,” someone once told me.

True, it doesn’t have the zig-zagging athleticism of basketball, the bone-crushing strength of football, or the exhilarating terror of hockey players cutting across the ice on blades. However, I grew up with no choice but to love baseball and like a good fan, defend it. A slow sport? Ever watched golf?

Now with the end of the 2023 baseball season and the playoffs in full swing, I thought I’d dredge up this disagreement again to touch on the latest reason of why I appreciate baseball for something more than a slow sport (hopefully in a less offensive way to all of the golf lovers).

To start, it appears that some time ago we discovered that baseball was not only slow, but getting slower. In 2021 the average baseball game times were, for the typical nine-inning game, 3:10:07. On top of that, there was no time lower than 3 hours since the 2:56:14 average in 2015. In 2021, fans, enthusiasts, and players alike saw three-hundred-ninety games that lasted 3 ½ hours or longer.

Now to the present day, may I draw your attention to the 2023 baseball season: the number of games 3.5 hours or longer this season? Nine.

The average time for nine-inning games? 2:39:49 — the lowest since the 1985 (2:40) and 1984 (2:35) seasons.

What changed? The rules.

Initially tested out in the minor leagues, new rules were implemented this year. Most notable to this timing change was the addition of a pitch clock. Pitchers now have 15 seconds to throw during empty bases and 20 seconds with a runner on base.

The results were palpable at the Major League games I was able to attend this past season. Innings seemed to pass by within the length of my figuring out how best to unwrap and put ketchup on my hot dog (without dropping it on the head of the person in front of me). Player after player was already on base or had struck out by the time I scoured my rusty brain for the right notations to make on the scorecard (I guess I’d have to cheat off of my dad, then). My family and I found ourselves able to stay well beyond our predetermined fourth-inning-out-the-door plan.

Don’t get me wrong, slow sport person, baseball was great before. (Even if you don’t engage with the sport, you’ll notice how baseball has seeped its way into the English language—“home run,” “strike out,” “touch base,” Yogisms, I could go on and on.) But it seems the slow sport message was heard, and it’s time for everyone to acknowledge that baseball is only getting better.

The pitch clock wasn’t the only rule change. There are new rules addressing infielder positioning and pickoffs, but another one to highlight is a seemingly simple one: this year, the bases are bigger. Not only was this intended to decrease player injuries, but now, stealing bases is easier. In 2023, the success rate of attempts to steal a base was at a record high 80.2%, an increase from 75.4% in 2022. What does this mean? More excitement, of course. Who doesn’t love the rush of the runner pumping their way to the next base, splashing in the dirt as they slide in, the pitcher frantically wheeling the ball their way?

There is always something to enjoy in the hot dogs, amusing candids caught on jumbotrons, and heart-thudding loyalties as you watch that ball soar through the air, hoping for it to land in a glove or fly over the fence for a home run (depending on what side you’re on). I don’t think there is any divide based on team loyalties when I say that these rule changes really, well, hit it out of the park.

Delaney is part of the Kenyon class of 2026. She is an avid reader and travel-lover who aims to incorporate the different cultures and worlds she experiences into her writing.