Looking at the length of Twins games from 1961-2015

Clock baseballjpgSome time ago I did a piece on the length of MLB games after the league announced its changes to quicken the pace of play prior to the 2015 season that I called Looking back at the pace of play in 2015. You can read that article here. Today I want to take a look at the entire history of Minnesota Twins game duration’s going back to 1961.

First off we are going to note of some rule changes that baseball implemented since 1961 that may or may not have had an impact on the length of games. I am not saying I have them all listed here but I listed as many as I am aware of. I appreciate Stew Thornley’s help in compiling this list

1961 – 162 game schedule implemented
1966 – artificial turf first implemented (Astrodome)
1969 – mound lowered 5 inches
1969 – strike zone was shrunken to the area from the armpits to the top of
the batter’s knees
1969 – saves rule added
1969 – playoffs started
1971 – all players must wear protective helmets
1973 – AL DH started
1973 – glove sizes standardized
1975 – ball was permitted to be covered with cowhide because of the shortage
of horses
1995 – wild card team added to playoffs
1997 – interleague play introduced
2008 – limited instant replay introduced on August 29
2013 – In addition to interpreters taking the mound with the pitching
coach/manager, two other rule changes of note were implemented. 1. A seventh
coach will be permitted to suit up and sit in the dugout, one more than in
previous seasons. This change comes as a result of several teams hiring an
assistant hitting coach, most of whom were forced to sit out games in the
clubhouse last year. 2. The fake-to-third, throw-to-first pick-off move that
almost never works will now be considered a balk. The “trick move” was voted
out by the Playing Rules Committee last year — giving MLB the authority to
bar the move but approval by the player’s union would make the ban
2014 – MLB’s new system of instant replay dictates which plays are subject
to review, how instant replay will be initiated by field managers and how
the review process will be conducted. As a part of the expansion of instant
replay, Clubs will now be allowed to show all replays on the ballpark
scoreboard, regardless of whether the play was reviewed. Home plate rules
were also changed.
2015 – MLB introduced new pace of game rules 1. With certain exceptions,
hitters must keep one foot in the batter’s box between pitches throughout
their at-bat. 2. Each ballpark now has between-inning countdown timers to
ensure that the next half-inning starts promptly.
The timers are set at 2 minutes, 25 seconds for most games and 2:45 for
nationally televised games. Pitchers and hitters have been encouraged to be
ready to go when the clock reaches 20 seconds. 3. Managers can now signal
instant-replay challenges to umpires from the dugout area, instead of from
the field.
2016 – Netting behind home plate to reach out to dugouts. Possible strike
zone change?

My personal definition of a long game is one that last 3 hours or more. I love watching baseball but when the game drags on and there is a modicum of action than I start to get bored. For the most part I would rather watch a 2 1/2 hour game over a 3 1/2 hour game but there are exceptions, a high scoring back and forth game can be fun just as a 2 hour and 20 minute game with no action can be boring. For my purposes here I will consider games that last 3 hours or more as long games. The chart you will see tracks game duration averages as well as games that last 3 hours or more. Games of less than nine innings are excluded in my study.

The 1960’s

In their final season in Washington the average game time for a Senators game was 2 hours and 43 minutes and 32 of those 154 games lasted 3 hours or more. The first game the Twins ever played on April 11, 1961 at Yankee stadium lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes and the Twins shut out the New York Yankees 6-0. The Twins first home game at Met Stadium was a 5-3 loss to the Washington Senators and that game lasted 2 hours and 23 minutes. The Twins longest game of the 60’s was an 18 inning affair at Sicks Stadium against the Seattle Pilots that started on July 19 and finished on July 20 and lasted 5 hours and 41 minutes. The game was actually suspended in the top of the 17th inning and resumed the next day and the Twins scored four runs in the top of the 18th and held on for the 11-7 win. Jim Perry pitched the 17th and 18th innings for the Twins to pocket the victory and then continued on to start and win the game scheduled for that day with a complete game 4-0 shutout. The Twins quickest game of this decade was a 3-0 loss played at Fenway Park that was over in an hour and 40 minutes. When the Twins put the 60’s in their rear view mirror and you looked at the average length of a Twins game, you found that it lasted 2 hours and 38 minutes and that 17.2% of the games that the Twins participated in lasted 3 hours or more.

The 1970’s

The Twins fastest game in the decade of the 70’s again lasted one hour and 40 minutes and took place at Anaheim Stadium when Jim Kaat picked up the 2-1 win. The lone Angels hit was a second inning lead-off home run by Frank Robinson. If you watched the Twins longest game of the 70’s you must have been one of the 8,628 fans at Met Stadium on May 12, 1972 where you watched the first 21 innings of the suspended game and you went home with the score tied at 3 apiece. It took five hours and 47 minutes total before the Brew Crew scored one in the top of the 22nd the next day and took home the W. If you think you went home disappointed? How about Twins shortstop Danny Thompson who went 0 for 10 and had an error. When you review the 70’s you will find that an average Twins games lasted 2 hours and 37 minutes and the percentage of games lasting 3 hours or more dropped to 14.2%. Games actually averaged a minute less in the 70’s than they did in the 60’s and there were fewer games of 3 or more hours in duration.

The 1980’s

So let’s move on to the 1980’s where the Twins longest game took place in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and the Twins lost 6-5 in the bottom of the 16th inning to the Billy Martin managed A’s ending a game that lasted 5 hours and 3 minutes. The shortest game in the 80’s (and the Twins quickest game ever) was a snappy one hour 33 minute affair when Blue Jay Jim Clancy threw a one-hitter and beat the Twins 3-0 and Frank Viola at Exhibition Stadium in the first game of a twin-bill. In the 80’s a Twins game averaged two hours and 41 minutes, a jump of four minutes over the previous decade. The number of 3+ hour games jumped from 227 to 286 and these games now made up 18.3% of the games played.

The 1990’s

Ah, the 90’s, the games start to get substantially longer and an average Twins game lasted 2 hours and 53 minutes, a 12 minute jump over the 80’s and the number of 3 hour plus games jumped from 286 to 514 and now made up one-third of the games played. The longest game this decade and longest Twins game ever in terms of time played (not innings played) took place against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field and fans got to see 17 innings and 6 hours and 36 minutes of hard-fought baseball before 39,431 home-town fans went home happy with a 10-9 win. The quickest game of the 90’s also took place against the Indians but this time it was at the Dome and the Twins won 3-2 with three pitchers throwing a total of 85 pitches and the game was over in 1 hour and 58 minutes.

The 2000’s

The longest Twins game of the first decade in the 21st century took place at Yankee Stadium and the Twins lost 13-12 in the 14th inning. You remember that game don’t you? The Twins and Yankees were tied at nine after nine and the Twins finally scored three in the top of the 14th inning to take a 12-9 lead only to have Jason Giambi hit a walk-off grand slam off of Mike Trombley and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to win the game 13-12 and end the game after five hours and 45 minutes. Another one of those games in which the Yankees found a way to beat the Twins. The quickest Twins game from 2000-2009 took place on June 2, 2007 at McAfee Coliseum when the Oakland A’s beat the visitors from Minnesota 1-0 in one hour and 49 minutes. The average Twins game in the 2000’s lasted 2 hours and 51 minutes, a drop of two minutes from the previous decade. The number of games of 3 or more hours also dropped to 484 from 514.

Current times (2010 – 2015)

When we look at the last six years of Twins baseball we see that for the first time in Twins history that Twins games averaged over three hours in 2013 (3 hours 5 minutes) and 2014 (3 hours and 7 minutes). In addition; in 2014 the Twins played in 94 games that lasted at least 3 hours, that works out to 58% of the games. The longest game of the decade thus far was game two of a double-header against the Dodgers at Target Field in which the Twins came up on the short-end of a 5 hour and 11 minute affair by a 4-3 score in 12 innings. The shortest game took place on July 17, 2010 at Target Field when the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 3-2 in one hour and 52 minutes. The average Twins game from 2010-2015 lasted 2 hours and 58 minutes, an increase of 7 minutes from the previous decade. The number of games of 3 or more hours reached an all time peak of 43.4% of all the games that the Twins have participated in since 2010.

A Twins game last season (2015) took on average 2 hours and 57 minutes and there were 65 games of 3 hours or more, more than double than what it was when the Twins first started play in 1961. You might ask, what an average length of a Twins game has been since they started play in 1961 through the end of the 2015 season? The answer my friends is blowing in the wind……..no, it comes out to two hours and 46 minutes.

I took a quick look at the 88 Twins games played prior to the All-Star break in 2016 and found that the games averaged 3 hours and 4 minutes which is a seven minute jump over the 2015 season. In addition 53 of the 88 games have lasted 3 hours or more and that comes out to 60.23% of the games played threatening the Twins all-time high of 94  three-hour plus games in 2014.

Twins Game length 1961 thru 2015

The game length data was extracted from the Baseball-Reference.com site.

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