How Long is a 9-Inning Baseball Game on Average?

The average Major League Baseball game takes 3 hours to complete from start to finish.

| Read: 4 min

A view of the outfield at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox
Countless 4-5 hour games have been played at Fenway over the years.

That assumes that the game went the full nine innings and there were no weather-related delays or otherwise.

By rule, Major League and Minor League baseball plays to completion. It doesn’t live by the clock the way that the other three major sports do. That means game time is open ended, which is how you get to 33 innings, like the Paw Sox and Rochester Red Wings did in the longest game of all-time in 1981.

And that’s also how you get to a pitch clock. Since there is no time limit in baseball, MLB execs have started scheming up ways to speed up the game. For example, the average length in between pitches has been steadily increasing over the last few decades. So MLB cooked up the pitch clock, filing it under “new rules”.

What affects the pace of play?

Many, many things affect the pace of play and the length of the game. Pitching changes, injuries, and even the number of foul balls are just a few examples of the things that affect the game’s duration.

And that’s not just at the major league level either. Youth baseball games are similarly affected, even if they only play six and seven-inning games.

Extra innings is another one. And playoffs. Those Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees playoff matches over the early to mid 2000s were taking 4-5 hours to complete ... for a nine-inning game.

Were people getting their money’s worth? Yes. But fans didn’t (and don’t) want extended games. True, they want to make the game last, much like the money they are investing in a ticket. But they also want a succinct game as well.

Things that affect the length of the game

How long are games in the postseason?

Definitely longer. The amount of time given toward everything is greater in the playoffs. That’s because there is a lot more riding on the line.

There are also more advertisers in the postseason. And more pomp. Pre-game ceremonies take longer to complete, especially in the World Series.

Speaking of the World Series, in 2018, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers played the longest World Series game in MLB history. The game took over 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete, with Dodger Max Muncy driving in the game winning run via homerun.

For those keeping score, they played the most innings in baseball history for a World Series game at 18. The Sox and Dodgers essentially played a doubleheader that night. Time-wise, that would equate to two 3:40 minute games, which is well beyond the average length of a baseball game in the regular season.

Are Non-Professional Games shorter?

Yes, and for a variety of reasons. One of which is that baseball teams at the high school and youth levels tend to play less innings. Sure, some high school games go to the ninth inning, but a lot do not. Little League only plays to six.

How can you speed up a game?

There are many ways to speed up the game of baseball. In fact, beer league softball has a good model, if a bit unrealistic for players at the professional, semi-professional and amateur levels. We’ll cover those in a minute.

As far as MLB goes, they, the powers that be, are drumming up various ways to decrease the time it takes to complete a professional baseball game. These new rules, as they’re being hailed, have the potential to deliver a higher quality product (arguably). These including instituting a pitch clock and putting limits on pitching changes. This also includes trips to the mound - aka - mound visits.

While not up for debate is the total number of innings, MLB did experiment during the pandemic in how doubleheaders got played by reducing the inning total to 7, and starting extra-inning games with the first at-bat of every inning with a runner on second base.

Who has the job of moving the game along?

The average baseball game creates its own pace, much like games in the NHL, NBA and NFL. Ultimately, the job of keeping the game’s pace falls to the home plate umpire. He controls when each team bats and helps notify the away team and home team catcher of when play is stopped and can resume.

The umpire also informs hitters when it is time to step into the batters box. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a slow half-inning looks like in an MLB game, go to Youtube and watch some videos of 90s great, Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox.

His in-between pitch routine of adjusting his dirty batting gloves, tapping his helmet, and generally kicking out his legs and swinging his bat was a sight to behold. Luckily for viewers, he usually swung at the first pitch.

Baseball Game Length FAQs

How long is the average MLB game?

Once again, the average MLB game is just over three hours.

How long is the average Minor League game?

The average game time of a minor league game is less than three hours. Because there are so many games, it’s hard to say exactly how long they take. Best guess estimates suggest 2.5 hours.

How long are College Baseball Games?

College Baseball games, for divisions that play nine innings, take as long as a minor league game, roughly 2.5 hours.

How long are High School Baseball Games?

The length of a high school baseball game is tricky. Does the school league play 7 innings or 9? Do they have a mercy rule? There are many questions to ask when it comes to high school play.

The best way to determine the length of a high school game is to figure out how many innings there are and multiply by 15. For example, a 7 inning high school game will take approximately 135 minutes, or, 2 hours and 15 minutes.

How long are Little League Games?

Little League Games tend to take somewhere between 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. They can also get called for darkness, thus shortening the game.

The single biggest factor in the length of a Little League game is the quality of the pitching. This is true at all levels (see Maddux, Greg. But it is especially true at the Little League level, where more base runners = way more game, mostly due to sloppiness.

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