Playing off a topic Brett brought up yesterday, why are major league games stretching on so long? Brett and I are in complete agreement regarding the importance of attracting new fans to the game and how longer routine game times can make that task more difficult. Three hours is on the long side for an average game; three and a half hours for nine innings is ridiculous.
So what is the problem? I generally tended to blame the TV contracts and the insertion of a commercial every time play stops at all, but after looking over some game times from the minors this weekend I am no long sure that is the primary cause.
Not all leagues report game times, but here are the times for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games played by Iowa and Tennessee: 2:59, 2:44, 3:27, 2:19, 2:53, 2:43. Those time are a fair bit higher than I was expecting given the lack of media contracts in the minors. Maybe TV does not have as much to do with it as I had thought.
Sample sizes are too small here to draw definitive conclusions, but there are no clear trends from studying these six games. Iowa’s 3:27 saw each team use four pitchers, but so did Tennessee’s 2:53. Somehow the Smokies still wrapped things up 34 minutes faster. There are no obvious correlations with number of walks, either. In broad terms the better pitched (and less offense heavy) games moved more quickly, but that is not really surprising. Nor does it tell us why games just seem to keep getting longer as baseball advances through eras.
I don’t know what the answer here is. Like Brett, though, I am surprised that the Commissioner’s office does not appear to be taking a more visible interest in the issue. Regardless of your opinion of this Commissioner, when Selig focuses on something things tend to happen (good or bad). He was embarrassed by a tied All-Star Game and immediately reformed it. He was called out by Congress over PEDs and now baseball has one of the stiffest and most aggressively enforced drug policies in professional sports. He wanted to address competitive balance and the runaway spending on amateur talent and in the span of a single CBA pushed through more changes to the draft and international free agency than had occurred collectively in many years. If Selig would turn his attention to game times, I honestly think something would get done. It might even be the right thing.
A game clock should never be apart of the game of baseball, but that does not mean that less radical tweaks cannot be found that will speed things up a bit.
Scores From The Weekend
Friday – Iowa kept this one close, but lost in the ninth 5-4.
Saturday – They fell in a shutout on Saturday, 5-0.
Sunday – But on Sunday Iowa finally broke through with a win. The final in this one was 8-4.
Friday – The Smokies had plenty of hits, but no runs. They lost 1-0.
Saturday – A ninth inning rally fell short as they lost again on Saturday 4-3.
Sunday – Tennessee went winless for the weekend as they fell 10-4.
Kane County –
Friday – This game did not go well for the Cougars. They lost 7-4.
Saturday – A pair of three run innings carried the Cougars to a 6-1 win.
Sunday – They were blown out in this one, though, losing 11-1.
Friday – A rainout on Friday…
Saturday – …set up the doubleheader on Saturday. The Hawks took Game One 4-0, but dropped the second contest 3-1.
Sunday – Boise won by a sizeable margin on Sunday, 10-5.
Friday – A three run eighth inning led the AZL Cubs to a 6-4 win.
Saturday – Arizona had Saturday off.
Sunday – As of 11:30 PM this game had no updates on the Arizona Cubs website. I assume it had been delayed for some reason. In case anything did happen, the box score should be linked off this page.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Now that Logan Watkins is in the majors, the Iowa Cubs found themselves in need of a second baseman. Naturally they turned to Daniel Lockhart, freshly promoted from the Boise Hawks. This is not as strange as it sounds. The I-Cubs are travelling out West where Boise plays. While someone like Alcantara may make more sense long term, Lockhart was available and able to get to the team more quickly. He played pretty well in his first game at Triple A, finishing 2 for 5 with a double.
- [Iowa] Mike Olt also had a nice game on Sunday. He went 2 for 5 with a double and a triple while striking out twice.
- [Iowa] Not only did Jake Arrieta strike out 11 in just 5 innings on Sunday, he out-pitched Seattle’s Taijuan Walker in the process.
- [Tennessee] Javier Baez collected five hits over Saturday and Sunday, including a double in each game.
- [Tennessee] Zach Rosscup is continuing to impress. He struck out 3 and allowed a hit in an inning of work on Saturday.
- [Tennessee] Arismendy Alcantara is up to 25 steals on the season now. The second baseman is mired in a bit of a slump right now, and that has dragged his OPS down to .784 for the season. This is pure speculation, but I wonder if fatigue could be playing a role here. Alcantara has played 109 games now; he’s never played in as many as 100 in a season before.
- [Daytona] Corey Black struck out 8 over 4 innings in his Cubs debut. Unfortunately, he also gave up 4 runs on 3 hits (including a pair of home runs ) and 3 walks.
- [Daytona] Zeke DeVoss doubled twice and walked as part of his 3 for 4 game. Chadd Krist doubled three times.
- [Daytona] The Cubs had an unusually high four errors in this game. Their 15 hits were more than able to makeup for that uncharacteristic lapse.
- [Kane County] The winning pitcher in Saturday’s game was starter Starling Peralta, but Sheldon McDonald and Michael Hamann deserve plenty of credit for their work in relief as well.
- [Kane County] 2013 draftee Giuseppe Papaccio broke out with a 3 hit game on Sunday. The infielder hit his first Low A home run the day before.
- [Boise] The shutout on Saturday was a joint effort by Dillon Maples (5 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K) and Corbin Hoffner (2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K). Both pitchers have been pitching very well for the Hawks of late.
- [Boise] Juan Paniagua made his Boise debut on Saturday in Game Two. In 2.1 innings of relief he struck out 2 while giving up just a walk and a hit.
- [Boise] Kris Bryant is essentially beating up the Northwest League. With just over 50 AB now Bryant has a hit in almost every game in which he has played (including 4 doubles and 3 home runs) while putting up a slash line of .292/.352/.583.
- [Arizona] Erick Leal struck out 8 in 5 innings on Friday. Jose Arias struck out 6 more in his 3 innings of work.
- [Arizona] Shortstop Francisco Sanchez hit 2 triples in his 2 for 3 game.
- Turning Javier Baez into a more complete hitter is a focus for the Tennessee Smokies. The Smokies Radio Network has a nice article on Baez, Tennessee hitting coach Desi Wilson, and the work the two are doing on recognizing pitches, staying back on the ball, and using the entire field. That work, including some batting practice focus on hitting the ball to the opposite field, is starting to pay off in games. We are seeing Baez’s strikeout rate start to trend downwards over the past week as the walks have begun to tick upwards. And when Baez puts it all together we see multi-hit games like those on Saturday and Sunday. The indicators are pointing in the right direction, and it seems like the Cubs are in no hurry here. It will interesting to see what Baez looks like at the plate in person when I visit Tennessee in a week.
- One player I will not be seeing next week, to my marginal disappointment, is pitcher Kyle Hendricks. The ace of the Tennessee staff appears to be headed to Iowa by way of Mesa. I am glad to see this promotion finally arrive, but part of me wishes the Cubs had waited just a little longer so I might have had a chance to see him pitch first hand. Oh well. That’s the downside of covering the Cubs farm system when I do not live near any of their teams. Maybe I can talk the Cubs into moving a team over to Delmarva or Frederick. Hmm … Anyone have Theo’s phone number?